Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-Calif.) chastised House colleagues who are opposed to abortion rights, saying she was tired of hearing “from so many sex-starved males” about a woman’s right to choose.
Her remark Wednesday during a House debate on a spending bill for the Department of Health and Human Services caused a stir and immediately, Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) asked Torres if she would like to amend her remarks. Torres agreed, but not before getting the line in one more time.
“If it pleases my colleague on the other side, I will withdraw my statement of sex-starved males on the floor,” she said.
Once a statement is withdrawn, it is stricken from the record. But C-SPAN’s feed from the floor is forever.
Torres began again, saying it is “tiring to be here on this floor or in committee as a woman to continue to be counseled about what types of affordable [care], whether it is family planning conversations, that rightfully I deserve to have with my own doctor, choosing when women want to have a family and to avoid pregnancy.”
Her initial comment was prompted by freshman Rep. Ross Spano (R-Fla.), who argued that the pending package of 2020 spending bills weakens protections against federal tax dollars being used to fund abortions.
“It is tiring,” she began, drawing out each word for added emphasis, “to hear from so many sex-starved males on this floor talk about a woman’s right to choose.”
Abortion rights have reemerged as a top issue as several Republican-led states have enacted laws to limit or end abortions. In response, many Democrats, including most of the candidates for president, have come out in favor of ending the 40-year limitation on federal funding for abortions, known as the Hyde Amendment.
A liberal bloc of Democrats pushed to strike the provision, named for former congressman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), from the spending bill. They sought to ensure abortions would be covered by government health programs such as Medicaid. But House leadership blocked their effort, unwilling to undermine the entire bill.
“Let me be clear on the Hyde Amendment: I would repeal it tomorrow,” said Rep. Katherine M. Clark (Mass.), vice chairwoman of the House Democratic Caucus, on Monday, according to the Hill. But she said starting that debate would threaten everything else in the bill “that is so good for American families.”
Instead, Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) told The Washington Post last week that House Democrats were focusing their efforts this year on reversing the Trump administration’s “gag rule” restricting health providers receiving federal funds from providing patients with information on abortions, eliminating the funding of abstinence-only sex education programs and increasing Title X funding to a new high of $400 million for fiscal 2020.
In an interview off the House floor, Torres explained why she felt compelled to say what she did about her male colleagues.
“You have to be pretty sex-starved to keep thinking about sex every single minute of your day and keep bringing this issue up on everything, whether it’s foreign aid, whether it’s domestic aid, whether it’s health care — they bring it up,” she said.
Woodall said there were no hard feelings, and that he did not take her comments as an insult toward him. They chatted amicably after but not about her remark.
“You will not find many members more passionate than Ms. Torres,” Woodall said, “but you will also not find many more delightful to spend time with.”