Vagina-gate started last week, when Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown, a Democrat, was reproached and silenced after using the word ‘vagina’ in her speech arguing against a proposed bill restricting abortions: “Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”
Michigan’s Republican Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas banned Brown, along with Rep. Barb Byrum, also a Democrat, from speaking Thursday for violating the decorum of the House.
Byrum wanted to introduce an amendment to House Bill 5711 that would ban men from getting a vasectomy unless it was necessary to save a man’s life. Sort of putting the shoe on the other foot.
In response, the play “The Vagina Monologues” will be performed on the steps of the Michigan Statehouse at 6 p.m. central time tonight. Playwright and actress Eve Ensler is flying in from California to join State Rep. Lisa Brown for the production.
According to the Facebook event, “Vaginas Take Back the Capitol!!” at least 10 female House members – all Democrats, of course – will join Brown and Ensler. Some 3,600 people report they’ll be attending.
What I don’t understand is the response to the word “vagina.” It’s the anatomically correct term. There are others I find much more offensive. Yet Michigan Republican Rep. Mike Callton told The Detroit News, “I would not say that in mixed company.”
But really, this debate isn’t about what you can say in polite company. It’s about the right to reproductive health services and yes, that includes abortion.
House Bill 5711, which passed 70 to 39, and will head to the state Senate this fall, would further restrict access to abortion in the state of Michigan. Some are calling it the state’s most restrictive bill yet with its array of new regulations.
Abortion foes have figured out that you can’t always win the war with one single swoop. Instead, you fight lots of tiny battles along the way. If you can’t overturn Roe vs. Wade, then work state by state, law by law.
My home state of Kansas has already added new pieces of legislation under our Republican governor to make it tougher to get an abortion here.
As I’ve written before, if you oppose abortion, then work to change the circumstances that make any woman feel like she must end a pregnancy. Focus on the economy. Focus on jobs. Focus on violence against women. (In fact, that’s one of the underlying messages of “The Vagina Monologues.”)
What’s more offensive than the word ‘vagina’?
Not being able to say it.
Diana Reese is a freelance writer in Kansas City. Follow her on Twitter at @DianaReese.