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Mich. Female Lawmakers Blocked From Speaking After Comments Over Abortion Bills

Mich. Female Lawmakers Blocked From Speaking After Comments Over Abortion Bills

June 15, 2012 — Michigan House Republican leaders refused to allow two female Democratic lawmakers to speak about any issues on the last day of the session Thursday because of comments they made during debate over a package of antiabortion bills (HB 5711, HB 5712, HB 5713), the Detroit Free Press reports (Gray, Detroit Free Press, 6/15).

HB 5711, which would place several new restrictions on abortion providers, was approved 70-39 on Wednesday. The House opted not to vote on the other bills (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/14).

In a speech on the House floor on Wednesday, Rep. Lisa Brown (D) said that the bills would violate her Jewish beliefs and that abortion should be permitted in cases when a woman's life is in danger. She concluded the speech by saying, "Finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no'" (Livengood, Detroit News, 6/14).

Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas (R) gaveled Brown out of order (Bassett, Huffington Post, 6/14). Ari Adler, a spokesperson for the Republican majority, said Stamas thought Brown's comments violated the decorum of the House (Detroit News, 6/14). "For Brown, it was not the words she used, but the way she used them that resulted in her being gaveled down," Adler said.

Brown said she was not aware that she would be barred from speaking on Thursday until she was about to give a speech on a bill about teacher retirement (Huffington Post, 6/14).

Second Lawmaker Blocked From Speaking

Rep. Barb Byrum (D) also was not allowed to speak on Thursday (Detroit News, 6/14). On Wednesday, Byrum was gaveled out of order after she objected to being denied the chance to speak in support of her amendment that would have required a man to provide proof of a medical emergency or a threat to his life before obtaining a vasectomy (Detroit Free Press, 6/15).

"It's my impression that I'm being banned from speaking as a result of my use of the term vasectomy -- a medical procedure," Byrum said, adding, "It's just unacceptable to silence women when we're talking about women's reproductive rights" (Huffington Post, 6/14).