Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown on religious freedom and vagina

(Transcript after the jump.)

Yesterday in Michigan, before the Chubby Hubby of anti-choice bills passed the House, Rep. Lisa Brown spoke for the many pro-choice advocates who were silenced in debate. She then offered a very different take on religious freedom from the one we typically hear in US politics. Jewish law requires therapeutic abortion if a pregnant person’s life is at risk. So this anti-choice legislation is (by the weird logic that says religious freedom means the state’s laws should be the church’s laws) also impinging on religious freedom.

And then Rep. Brown said “vagina.” And then she was banned from speaking on the House floor in future debates. Seriously. State Rep. Barb Byrum was also apparently banned from speaking for saying “vasectomy.” Banning life-saving medical procedures: totally OK. Using medically accurate language: silenced forever. (Update: The speaker’s office now says they just can’t speak today. Which I guess makes being silenced for saying “vagina” and “vasectomy” totally OK…)

Megan Carpentier at Raw Story has a brilliant open letter to Michigan House Republicans. Go read it.

Rep. Lisa Brown: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Well now I’m going in order of what I was saying. The sergeant is now removing 10,000 cards like these from constituents across the state whose voices were not allowed to be heard in committee, who stand and demand their rights. It was three big full boxes, there are more than 10,000 cards.

This legislation does a lot of things, Mr Speaker. It regulates business, requiring exhorbitant insurance policies to be purchased which will result in clinics closing, causing people to lose their jobs, and denying women their constitutional rights.

Yesterday we heard the representative from Holland speak about religious freedom. I’m Jewish. I keep kosher in my home. I have two sets of dishes, one for meat and one for dairy, and another two sets of dishes on top of that for Passover. Judaism believes that therapeutic abortion, namely abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother, are not only permissible but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there is a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor of preserving the life of the mother. The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother. I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. why are you asking me to adopt yours.

And finally Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina but no means no.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

Read more about Jos

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/sydneyt710/ Sydney

    I think banning her from speaking after standing up for her rights sends a much larger, scarier message to all women (and really anyone outside of the WASP demo.).
    The only way I can interpret this “punishment” is as a way to scare other people who oppose misogynist legislation, especially women, into submission. Sort of “Appreciate the rights you have, because we can (and will) take away more.”

    • http://feministing.com/members/mentacula/ Jei

      @Sydney, sorry I accidentally reported your comment (the button was too close to ‘Reply’). overshoot. oops.

      Anyway, I just wanted to say that the phenomenon you are talking about reminded me of the Booker T. Washington/W.E.B. DuBois debate that would continue in the African American and broader civil liberties dialog throughout the 60s and 70s regarding degrees of freedom and compromise. Washington felt half a loaf was better than none, meaning when you are starving an education gets out-prioritized (he thought the road to betterment was large scale economic betterment of Blacks in America); contrasted with DuBois, who felt that we [he meant Black Americans, but I take it in a broader sense] should not be content to grovel at the crumbs of civil liberties we are thrown (he felt that the road to betterment was leadership and representation). In the context of women’s rights, since we are an enormous faction that spans income demographics, I have to agree with DuBois. If we had adequate and proportionate representation, this wouldn’t be happening. And no one would be afraid to hear the word Vagina. I’m just going to write that word as much as possible this week. Along with ‘duodenum’ and other completely anatomical terms.

  • http://feministing.com/members/cassius/ Brüno

    yes it’s almost as if the people at the top decided that feminism was a bad idea after all and are trying 2 reverse it.

  • http://feministing.com/members/mentacula/ Jei

    Oh, the irony. She seeks redress of both her precedent-based Constitutional right to privacy and her First Amendment right (freedom to practice her religion, and freedom from other people’s religion) – and gets her First Amendment guaranteed freedom from government sanction of speech and content-based censorship stomped-on in response. In 200 years or so, it might even be funny.