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?