Two Democratic congresswomen walked out of a House Oversight Committee meeting on birth control Thursday morning. Calling the meeting an “autocratic regime,” the Congresswomen decided to vacate the meeting after committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., refused to allow a progressive woman to speak.
Contraception mandate challenged
The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the Obama Administration’s requirement that employers provide contraception to employees as part of the Affordable Health Care Act. Republicans have held strong against the mandate, citing religious freedom as the basis of their objection.
Since the controversy began, the Administration has backed off on its contraception requirement for employers with a religious or moral objection. But House Republicans are not satisfied.
Women should be represented, Dems say
According to the International Business Times, Issa ignored the advice of ranking committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who said a female should be represented at the hearing.
The reason Issa touted for the exclusion was:
“[This hearing] is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the administration’s action as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience.”
But that response was not flying with Democratic Congresswomen. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said:
“What I want to know is, where are the women? I look at this panel, and I don’t one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?”
Let Fluke speak, Dems say
Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. both then called on the committee to hear Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown law student. That was also refused.
“[Fluke] appears to have become energized over this issue. … [She] is not appropriate or qualified.”
Reps walk out of meeting
At that point, feeling the panel had come in with pre-drawn conclusions, Cummings, Maloney and Holmes Norton all walked out. Congresswoman Anne Maria Buerkle, R-N.Y. and Rosa Delauro, D-Ct., decided to stay.
Ten witnesses testified at the hearing Thursday. Most of them were men, and none of them were in support of the White House and its contraception mandate.
According to a Talking Points Memo, Holmes Norton called the hearing an “autocratic regime,” and refused to return. She did, however, pull Fluke aside after the meeting, giving her a chance to speak with reporters. Fluke tearfully told of a friend who was diagnosed with ovarian cysts. She was prescribed birth control pills in an effort to not lose her fertility, but because she was a student without health insurance, she could not afford the pills and lost her ovaries.
“Those are the consequences of this policy, and those are the voices the chairman silenced today.”
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