Vagina Dialogues in Michigan

by Dianne Feeley

June 19, 2012

Michigan Republicans Freak Out Over Vaginas Monologue

Rest assured that the Jim Stamas (R-Midland), Majority Floor Leader in the Michigan House of
Representatives, is determined to maintain “decorum” in the body. He made the decision—as the party in power can—on June 14, the final day of the 2012 spring session, that State Rep. Lisa Brown (D-W. Bloomfield) could not speak because “she went too far” when she addressed the body the day before.

What had Brown said? In response to a bill further restricting abortion, she said “I’m flattered that
you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”

Apparently the anti-abortion representatives considered that “inappropriate” and “offensive,” the kind of talk, according to State Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) that one does not say “in mixed company.”

After she had been silenced, Brown held a press conference and noted that vagina is the medically
correct term that was at the center of the legislature’s debate over three further restrictions on
abortion. She asked, “If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?”

State Rep. Barb Byrum (D-Onondaga) was also silenced because she had the audacity and humor to
propose a ban on men obtaining a vasectomy unless the procedure was necessary to save a man’s life.

Of the three anti-abortion bills that were up for a vote in the Michigan House of Representatives, two were postponed, including banning of abortions after 20 weeks except when the procedure would save a woman’s life. Such a bill was recently signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer.

The 45-page bill that did pass the Michigan House mandates clinics that perform abortions to become licensed surgical centers subject to extensive licensing and regulation. Doctors would be required to screen women to see if they are being coerced into terminating a pregnancy and to obtain a million dollar medical malpractice policy if performing more than five abortions in a month and having lost two lawsuits.

These restrictions on the 32 clinics that exist in the lower third of the state would mean some would close. Women would consequently have to wait longer, come further distances and pay more for the procedure. The bill will be considered by the Michigan Senate in the fall term.

In contrast to the preoccupation of the right with abortion, a safe medical procedure, the Michigan legislature seems unconcerned by the reality of our high rate of infant mortality or that nearly one out of every four children live in poverty. Yet last year the Michigan legislature reduced public assistance for women and their children to a maximum of four years. In the eyes of the right-wing legislature poverty–just like needing an abortion–is the result of individual irresponsibility. Those who support social justice have our work cut out for us.

Dianne Feeley is an editor of Against the Current.