Silencing of Women on Women’s Health Continues

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Common Dreams

Silencing of Women on Women’s Health Continues

"We finally have the agenda in its full bloom in Congress.”

by
Common Dreams staff

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi has scheduled a hearing for tomorrow on women's health to hear from the woman who was not allowed to testify at Chairman Darrell Issa's all-male hearing last week. But Democrats say Republicans won't let them televise the hearing, adding fuel to what many see as a Republican "war on women."

The Hill reports:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced the event, her party's latest effort to capitalize on the controversy surrounding last week's hearing. Images of its all-male witness panel spread quickly online, helping Democrats frame the issue on their terms.

The only witness at Pelosi's hearing will be Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student who wasn't allowed to testify last week. [...]

Pelosi and other Democrats slammed Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) last week for convening an all-male panel to discuss a mandate that affects women's access to healthcare. Issa said his hearing was not about the contraception policy itself, but rather about religious freedom and whether the mandate encroaches on religious employers.

Politico reports that Pelosi aides say Republicans are preventing them from broadcasting the hearing:

Pelosi aides say the House recording studio has denied a request to broadcast the event, “apparently” at the behest of the Republican-controlled Committee on House Administration.

Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill pointed to a July 2008 decision in which the committee lifted restrictions on use of the studio.

“If Chairman [Dan] Lungren has reversed this policy, he has done so in secret and not consulted with CHA Democrats,” Hammill said in an email. “This leaves us only to think that the House Republican leadership is acting out yet again to silence women on the topic of women’s health.”

Commenting on last week's hearing, RH Reality Check's Jodi Jacobsen writes that the hearing:

...featured constant and strident chiding by the Committee Chair, Congressman Darrell Issa (R-CA), of his Democratic Party counterparts that the hearing was "not about women's health, contraception, or health reform," while allowing all the anti-contraception, anti-health reform witnesses to speak about nothing but denying women health care, contraception, and health reform.

And Jessica Valenti notes in The Nation that the all-male panel is a familiar site:

When a picture of Congressman Darrell Issa’s all-male panel on birth control (the make-up of which prompted several Democratic women to walk out of the hearing) hit the Internet and mainstream media—I couldn’t help but be reminded of a similar picture of George W. Bush signing the “partial birth” abortion ban, surrounded by a group of smiling clapping men. All men. (Santorum was one of them.)

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Others see a "war on contraception" -- a war that hasn't just begun but that is now on full display in our political sphere.

Sady Doyle writes in In These Times:

But after a year of coordinated assaults on Planned Parenthood, “personhood” initiatives that stood to make oral contraceptives illegal, and other bizarre attacks on protected sex, we hardly need a reason to talk. The war has been declared; the battle lines are drawn; “not getting pregnant” is the new abortion.

But in the midst of all this a few questions stood out. Namely: How is it that in a country where 99 percent of women have used birth control we are fighting over whether people should be able to get birth control? How did a position this extreme and alienated from the will of the people enter mainstream political conversation?

“People are talking about ‘Oh, the war on contraception has begun.’ It hasn’t begun,” author Christina Page told me. “What’s begun is that we finally have the agenda in its full bloom in Congress.”

In her book How The Pro-Choice Movement Saved America, Page argues that right-wing attacks on abortion are cover for a far more radical agenda. The real target of organized anti-choicers, she says, is not abortion. Abortion is just the divisive, emotional topic used to mobilize grassroots support. The real target of the organized anti-choice movement–as opposed to individuals who are anti-abortion–has always been birth control. Page told me she’s been recommending since 2008 that reporters ask all GOP candidates about their position on contraception.

* * *

In Virginia, a bill pro-choice advocates have described as state-sanctioned rape appears to be losing suppor, the Guardian reports:

The governor of Virginia has reined in his previously unconditional support for a bill which would force women seeking abortions in the state to undergo an internal ultrasound.

Governor Robert McDonnell, an anti-abortion Republican who is seen by some in his party as a possible candidate for vice-president, had previously said he would sign the bill if it were passed by Virginia's general assembly.

But after mounting pressure from campaigners, Democratic delegates and ordinary Virginians who strongly oppose the measure, McDonnell will now say only that he will review the bill if it appears on his desk.

This week, Virginia has come under increasing national scrutiny for moves to pass the legislation, the first of two of the most controversial anti-abortion bills in recent history proposed by state Republicans. It would force women undergoing first trimester abortions – when the majority of abortions are performed – to submit to a vaginally invasive procedure, offer them images of the foetus and have the resulting image lie on their medical file for seven years.

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