If you are like me, you perhaps were greeted with the following image from yesterday.
Of course, I immediately thought, hmm, another banking scandal cum testimony on the way? God save the banks. Of course, I was very wrong. What you are seeing here, if you haven’t already, is a still from the Capitol Hill Hearing on Obama’s most recent mandate on insuring birth control. Perhaps by now, you are experiencing the same feelings that I did when I saw a photo of an all-male witness stand that is speaking on birth control as a threat to religious freedom.
The hearing was not without its fraught moments. Led by Republican committee chairman, Darrell Issa, the panel was investigating whether or not Obama had hurt religious freedoms by the most recent mandate requiring health insurance companies cover contraception. The hearing, which consisted of an all male panel testifying in front of a predominantly all male committee (though later in the day, The Nation reports that ” 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 were allowed to testify” ). However, early on in the day, there was not a single woman testifying, a fact that garnered a huge amount of attention, and worsened by the fact that Issa effectively barred the only woman requested to testify. Representative Elijah Cummings asked to let the committee include the testimony of Sandra Fluke, a young Georgetown law student and the sole woman in the entire witness docket. Issa denied the request, stating, “The hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience”¦Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness,” further stating that the witness was a “college student” who did not “have the appropriate credentials” to testify.
Issa further insisted that the hearing was about the infringement of religious rights and “liberty,” not contraception coverage, denying the further request of the panel’s women representatives. Chairman Issa rejected the one and only woman witness in the trial, one that came with a final appeal after a trial of nothing but male religious leaders.
If it had not occurred to you by now, then please allow me spell it out in a very calm way that will perhaps prevent my own unhinging by the seams from the undeniable anger I am feeling at this very moment. Women were barred from speaking at this hearing on an issue that is intimately ours. We were single-handedly told, whether conscious or not, by these panel members and by Chairman Issa that we are not experts on our own experience and that our concerns are petty in the face of what is being sold as “the attack on religious freedom.” So when both Representative Carolyn Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton walked out of the hearing in protest, I can do nothing but shake my head in agreement.
I don’t see 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.” –Representative Carolyn Maloney
Of course, if you want a little more open condescension with your sexism, a little salt in your wound, why not seek out the opinion of Foster Freiss, Rick Santorum’s Super PAC Backer, who I am still looking for the exact reasons of what exactly qualifies him to be speaking on MSNBC in regards to birth control.
Yes, yes, the good ole days. I think many us are very intimate with this argument, you know, the one where in back in their days, we had no rights. The one’s where women just put aspirin between their knees (and it was just so cute when some man said that’s what needed to be done). Yes, the good ole days, the phrase in which every one of these men seem to be slipping into the conversation as if things were just so much better back when women were still allowed to be legally raped and murdered by their husbands, possessing birth control was something that could land you in jail, and dieing from an abortion because you didn’t have access to birth control was just, well, the norm. The good ole days. Sure. But for who?
I know that some people are out there saying that they do feel that there religious freedom is close to being violated, that they feel that this measure is a slippery slope, and that they as religious people, do not necessarily agree with this decision. I agree with their decision to feel this way. However, I cannot sit here today, looking at this panel, looking at these videos and think, yes, this is about religion. I cannot sit here and understand the logical fallacy that the GOP voted on contraception for wild horses, but will do anything to keep it away from actual people. I cannot sit here, looking at the state of reproductive rights in this country, where today in Virginia and Texas, there are not one but two bills going up to circumvent the protection that Roe v. Wade offers: the first, a bill requiring the use of forrced trans-vaginal ultrasound for all those seeking abortions (to which I recommend Governor Bob McDonnell looking up Virginia’s § 18.2-61. Rape. Definition) and the other, an egg-personhood bill that not only intends to outlaw abortion for everyone (incest, underage, and rape victims included), but also forms of hormonal birth control.
Moreover, I cannot sit here, with the experience that burns in my memory, of going to my local pharmacy when I was a mere eighteen years old and having a pharmacist not only deny me my prescribed birth control, which I had already paid for, but who then recommended I just keep my legs closed, in front of everyone who had moseyed in to pick up their Viagra, heart medication, and hemorrhoid cream, with nary a problem and of course, no workplace or legal recourse. I cannot have faith in these people who are doing everything they can to take something away from me, something that is part of my autonomy, as well as thousands of other, in anyway which way it presents itself, whether its under the umbrella of religious freedom or health concerns, especially not when the only witnesses brought are those still opposed to the new measure, who just happen to be men with a capital M in the power politic.
No, I cannot. Because when its asked, “Where are the women?” I can no longer assume a good faith policy. Because this may be a war, but it most certainly is not a war of religion.