The Washington Post

Birth control hearing on Capitol Hill had mostly male panel of witnesses (photo)

“These are the witnesses testifying on the birth control benefit right now on Capitol Hill. What is wrong with this picture?” Planned Parenthood wrote on its Facebook page Thursday.

(Planned Parenthood Facebook page/Think Progress)

Two thousand comments and nearly 5,000 shares later, it was clear most of the commenters weren’t happy about the nearly all-male panel of witnesses testifying at a Capitol Hill hearing Thursday. Neither was Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who asked why there weren’t more women on the panel. The hearing was to discuss whether President Obama had hurt religious freedoms by a recent mandate that health insurance companies cover contraception, according to the Associated Press. The witnesses included a representative of Catholic bishops and men of other religions.

A spokeswoman for Issa, Becca Watkins, said Thursday that “Rep. Pelosi is either ill informed or arrogantly dismissive of women who don’t share her views.”

Thursday’s hearing, she pointed out, included two women on a later panel, Allison Garrett, the senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University and Laura Champion, a doctor at Calvin College Health Services.

But Minority Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) wasn’t happy with the panel either. “Where are the women?” she asked early in the hearing, ABC News reports.

Maloney accused the Republican committee chairman, Rep. Darrel Issa (Calif.), of attempting to “roll back the fundamental rights of women to a time when the government thought what happens in the bedroom is their business.”

“We will not be forced back to that primitive era,” she said.

Issa said another female witness Democrats had requested be added, Sandra Fluke, was ineligible because she was a student at Georgetown, not a member of the clergy. Georgetown is a Catholic University, and does not insure birth control.

If Fluke had appeared, she would have talked about a classmate who lost an ovary because of a syndrome that causes ovarian cysts, according to ABC News. Some birth control helps decrease the risk of the syndrome.

Below, watch Fluke summarize the testimony she would have given:

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) chastised Issa for not allowing Fluke to appear, saying she should be represented in the witness panel, as the committee’s discussion had health repercussions for women.

Issa argued that the hearing was meant to be more generally about religious freedoms, not just the contraception mandate.

A letter sent to Democrats from Issa’s staff read: “As the hearing is not about reproductive rights but instead about the administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness.”


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