Lansing — A protest planned for Wednesday at the state Capitol is the latest salvo in the uproar sparked June 14 by House Republican silencing two female Democratic representatives for a day after they said “vagina” and “vasectomy” on the chamber’s floor.
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan is organizing the rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and encouraging other progressive women’s groups to turn out while the Legislature is in session for its lone work day this month — and wear pink.
State Rep. Lisa Brown‘s attention-grabbing reference to her vagina and a disturbance Rep. Barb Byrum caused on the House floor June 13 during an abortion bill debate earned them a one day cold shoulder from House Republican leaders, who refused to allow them to speak on a slew of bills the lower chamber was considering June 14.
That set off a firestorm, leading to national media attention for Brown and Byrum as well as scrutiny of House Speaker Jase Bolger and majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, who informed Democratic leaders Byrum and Brown would not be allowed to speak.
House Republican lawmakers have cited varying reasons why Byrum and Brown were silenced for a day. Some conservative GOP lawmakers said they were offended by Brown saying “vagina” on the House floor. Others interpreted Brown’s use of the phrase “no means no” to argue against the abortion bills as comparing the legislation to rape.
State Rep. Wayne Schmidt compared the one-day speaking ban to “giving a kid a time out for a day.”
And others point to Byrum yelling at House Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh and storming out of the chamber after he wouldn’t let her explain an amendment to ban vasectomies for men unless sterilization was necessary to avert a medical emergency.
Bolger and Stamas said the conduct of Byrum and Brown in general violated the House’s rules for decorum — and they have ignored demands for an apology.
“It really goes to show the real culture of misogyny we have in the Legislature now,” said Meghan Groen, director of governmental affairs for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan, the advocacy arm of the women’s health and abortion provider.
On June 18, female lawmakers organized a rally and special presentation of the play, “The Vagina Monologues,” on the Capitol steps that attracted 3,000 people from across the state and other parts of the country.
Wednesday’s rally will likely be a continuation of the previous rally, with a focus on lobbying against two abortion clinic restriction bills pending in the Senate.
“They’ve really awaken a sleeping giant with this,” Groen told The Detroit News.
In a statement released Tuesday, the Michigan Catholic Conference criticized the rally.
“Pro-abortion rights advocates in Michigan seem to have secured the death of their ‘safe, legal and rare” slogan, Michigan Catholic Conference Policy Advocate Rebecca Mastee said of opposition to House Bill 5711. “These organizations would rather a woman undergo a major surgical procedure at a clinic that may or may not meet third world standards than ensure her health and safety by bringing such facilities in line with any other outpatient surgical facility.”