After the all-male panel on birth control in the House Oversight Committee last week (wait, I’m supposed to be fair and say that the SECOND panel of the day had a couple women on it), plenty of people joked on Twitter about an all-female panel on Viagra. House Democrats aren’t doing that, but they are giving their star witness from the Oversight Committee panel, the one Darrell Issa didn’t allow to testify, a chance to speak.
The House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee will hold a hearing Thursday morning on women’s health. And there will be only one witness: Sandra Fluke, the third-year Georgetown law student who Oversight Committee Democrats wanted to testify at the birth control hearing.
According to Greg Sargent, this is the beginning of a more concerted effort to highlight women’s health.
“Women members are going to have a regular opportunity to go to the floor and talk about women’s health,” the aide says. He adds that female lawmakers will be using the upcoming second anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act to highlight GOP opposition to the contraception coverage mandate.
“That’s the temporal marker where a lot of this is going to be coming up again,” the aide says. Democrats are hoping to use this fight to relitigate health care reform on turf more favorable to them, by casting this battle as one over birth control and women’s health — and by arguing that the GOP sees both as lesser priorites than catering to hidebound cultural values right out of the 1950s.
We see this playing out right now in Virginia, where two days of powerful silent protests, mostly by women, against a bill that would force women seeking an abortion to get a trans-vaginal ultrasound have delayed a vote in the House of Delegates.
If nothing else, the birth control contretemps let millions of American women know that the Affordable Care Act included a measure that provided birth control coverage without a co-pay as part of all basic insurance plans. That’s probably enough to demarcate the lines on women’s health. But a tighter focus from House Democrats will only advance that.
UPDATE: And now Republican Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, seen as a potential VP candidate in the future, has officially hedged on the ultrasound bill, which is causing the party all kinds of problems. They’re now looking for a “compromise.” Good luck with that.