Va-gi-na:  The passage leading from the opening of the vulva to the cervix of the uterus in female mammals.

Vagina. It’s a word that appears in the dictionary, and it is defined as above. It also appears in the medical dictionary and in the encyclopedia. It’s a legitimate word. Yet, in the tiny little minds of the Michigan house Republicans, this word is offensive. Last week, two female politicians were banned from addressing the Michigan House after one used the word “vagina” and the other argued for regulating vasectomies during debate over an anti-abortion bill.

State representative Lisa Brown found herself gagged and not allowed to voice her opinion on a school employee retirement bill after she concluded her speech on anti-abortion legislation HB 5711 with this comment:

“Mr Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

For that she was gagged because a pack of intellectually challenged GOP nitwits found the language offensive? You’ve got to be kidding me. If you cannot handle discussion of the particular part of a woman’s body that is being regulated, I pretty much think you have no business legislating it. Yet, according to Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, Brown’s comments violated the decorum of the House.

Representative Mike Callton added, “What she said was offensive. It was so offensive I don’t even want to say it in front of women I would not say that in mixed company.”

For the record, I’d like to say that women have no problem with the word vagina. It’s part of our bodies. So, feel free to say it in front of us. And as far as saying it in mixed company, I have heard men speak about women. All you need to do is hang around in a bar for a while on a Friday night. What comes out of their mouths is much more crude than the word vagina. What the male members of the Michigan house found offensive is the fact that women were fighting back.

The legislation in question which ultimately passed 70-39, continues the GOP War on Women. It now moves on to the Senate, but it most likely will not be taken up until the fall. In a nutshell, this hardline bill will introduce new rules and insurance requirements for abortion providers, make it an offense to force a woman into an abortion, and regulate the disposal of fetal remains. It’s just another backdoor attempt at taking away a woman’s right to choose. Lisa Brown spells out exactly what HB 5711 means for women:

  • It will institute a bureaucratic licensing and regulatory process and enact expensive new fees intended to shut down many clinics.
  • It will invade the private doctor/patient relationship by requiring new screenings to determine if a woman is being coerced into an abortion.
  • It will create a new windfall for insurance companies by requiring doctors to carry $1 million in medical liability insurance even though liability coverage limits are not mandated in state law for any other medical practices.
  • It could ultimately result in the elimination of most women’s access to reproductive health care facilities by forcing the vast majority of clinics to close and by discouraging doctors from practicing in Michigan.
Lisa Brown’s fellow female Democratic representative, Barb Byrum, was also given the same treatment after attempting to hold men to the same reproductive standards as women. She was ignored and not allowed to add an amendment to HB 5711 that would prevent men from having vasectomies unless the procedure was needed to save their lives. Apparently what’s right for the goose is clearly not right for the gander.
The bottom line is that these female legislators’ First Amendment rights are being violated and they are not being allowed to effectively represent their constituents. The notion that grown adults find the word “vagina” offensive in the year 2012, and that those who use the word while debating legislation should be gagged, is just plain absurd. It’s simply another tactic with which to silence women’s voices as the GOP continues the march to roll back our rights.
Michigan women will not be silenced. Award-winning playwright, Eve Ensler, will join Lisa Brown, other state and local politicians and actors on the steps of the state capitol building in Lansing on Monday night for a performance of Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, which was first performed in New York in 1996. Ensler’s play consists of different stories that relate to women’s bodies and their own sexuality. Each year a new monologue is added to reflect a different women’s issue. The Vagina Monologues has become a key part of many women’s rights organizations activities around the globe.