All Male Contraception Panel Sparks Controversy

Do you think men are qualified to make decisions in regards to women’s health concerns? Birth control remains at the height of concern in the government. A congressional committee made the positive step forward of holding a panel on contraception, but they made the seemingly unfortunate mistake of forgetting to include anyone who actually has a female reproductive system on the panel. That’s right. A panel dedicated to talking to contraception with zero women weighing in. As you can imagine, women and men everywhere are expressing their dissatisfaction with the panel and its members.

According to an article on Politico, democratic representatives Carolyn Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton walked out in protest of the panel. Maloney summed it up pretty neatly when she said “What I want to know is, where are the women?” Both Maloney and Norton felt that chairman Darrell Issa of manipulating committee rules by blocking women from being on the panel. Maloney added “”I look at this panel [of witnesses], and 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.”

If you look at my previous post, you can see how President Obama’s plan to include contraception to all employees regardless of the employer’s political affiliation sparked this debate in the first place. According to an article on The Grind Stone a law student by the name of Sandra Fluke was to sit on the panel. Her approach was to look at birth control as a health care issue. Republicans did not agree with that request, arguing they wanted to discuss religious liberty. Fluke, according to Issa, was not qualified to testify about religious liberty.

This is not a completely man versus women argument. Representative Ann Marie Buerkle is also cited in the Politico article as agreeing with Issa. She stated “”I really find it so objectionable that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle would characterize this as something so narrow as being about contraception. This is a fundamental assault on one’s conscience.”

Ranking Democrat Elijah Cummings echoed the voices of Maloney and Norton, feeling as though the Republican Party had committed a massive injustice by ignoring the viewpoints of millions of women across the country. Norton made a motion to force a vote to seat Fluke, due to the fact that he was breaking committee rules (according to Norton). Fluke ignored the motion, prompting Maloney and Norton to vacate the room.

I stumbled across Larkin Callaghan’s blog in which she shared Senator Boxer’s response to the all male health panel. Senator Boxer serves from California and is a well known advocate for women’s rights. The argument right now is the argument that a panel dealing with elements of women’s health should have at least one woman to represent women’s voices on a congressional panel. According to the government census site in 2010 50.8% of the US population was women. With half the population being of the female sex it makes sense that many would be angered by a 100% male panel making rules over contraception.

If you want to see the testimony Sandra Fluke intended to give, you can view it here. What do you think about this debate? Should a woman have been present for the panel? Or do you believe the panel should have merely remained at religious liberty conversations and that the all male panel did not pose an issue?

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6 thoughts on “All Male Contraception Panel Sparks Controversy

  1. Corey says:

    This was a bold move by Republicans. I am ashamed that they would not take into account the voice of women on this panel. Legislation is one thing; but when you discuss this in committee meetings, its much more personal and in depth. And they could not provide the representation of one woman? I find that hard to believe.

    Further, the basis of religious liberty was at stake here. Why wasn’t a woman allowed to speak on behalf of religious liberty? Is this law student not qualified enough, or does her religion collide with the thoughts of the majority of the panel members. This sort of government is not representative in the least as it restricts to a unipolar view on the issues that are affecting women everywhere.

    • Thank you for your comment! I agree. I am not sure there is ever an appropriate time to have an all male or an all female candidate. A well rounded panel with diversity of some sort is essential for representing the viewpoint of all Americans. Also, while I appreciate that religious and moral issues come into play here for a lot of the candidates, it is a dangerous game to play when you are talking about the health and well being of a large percentage of american women.

  2. Kelly says:

    They needed a woman on that panel to put a face on the truth. Oral contraception is used as often in a woman’s overall health as it is used as birth control. It needs to be readily accessible as any other prescrition medicine. Reducing it to a matter of religion or morality takes it back to a dark time when women had to explain themselves. Some women use oral contraception as birth control. Some use it to control other health issues. Some use it for both. Everyone should care enough about women to allow them to make those choices with their doctors and not have to qualify it. A woman could have explained that.

    • I think you make a great point! Oral contraception is used as a medication for various health issues as well as preventing pregnancy. At the bottom of this post I linked to an abstract of a medical journal article that detail some of the health benefits that come from oral contraception. Beyond that, for those who call themselves anti-abortion, oral contraception are an educated measure to prevent an egg from ever being fertilized, therefore causing no need for an abortion. It’s a responsible decision for women to make, and preventing some women from being to access birth control in a reasonable mean would likely, in my opinion, cause an increase in need for abortion. I think restricting access to birth control would set us back a couple decades and erase the hard work of the feminist movement.

  3. larakristen says:

    They definitely need a woman on the panel. I know that the brunt of things that are making most people. mostly women, mad is that this panel consists of all men that are trying to govern what women are doing with their bodies. Putting a woman on the panel would in no way completely solve the controversy but I think it would make many women feel that they were more equally represented on the issue. We have talked a lot about this bill as well as the ultrasound for abortion bill in my Women’s and Gender Studies class and I think its great that you have brought this topic to everyone’s attention.

    • Nicole Dales says:

      I agree, Lara! I think in any situation is best to have one male and one female to sit in to bring different perspectives…a panel on women’s health seems like an obvious case where the female voice is needed.

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