JUNE 17, 2012 ARTICLE 16 OF 24

Two US female politicians were slapped with speaking gags after an anti-abortion debate. Photo: Michael Mucci
No ‘V’ words please, we’re Republicans

TWO female US politicians were banned from addressing the Michigan House of Representatives after one used the word ”vagina” and the other tried to argue for regulating vasectomies during a debate over a controversial anti-abortion bill.

The house bill, which was passed by 70 votes to 39, will introduce new rules and insurance requirements for abortion providers, make it an offence to force a woman to have an abortion, and regulate the disposal of foetal remains. It is part of proposed legislation that has been described by critics as one of the most hardline recent attempts at passing anti-abortion legislation in the US.

Lisa Brown, a Democratic state representative in Michigan, found herself gagged after house Republicans took exception to her language. She concluded her speech: ”Mr Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no’.” Her use of the word ”vagina” led house Republicans to ban her from speaking on another bill.

Republican Mike Callton said: ”What she said was … so offensive I don’t even want to say it in front of women.”

Ms Brown later expressed incredulity at a press conference: ”If I can’t say the word vagina, why are we legislating [on] vaginas? What language should I use?”

Democratic state representative Barb Byrum also caused a disturbance after Republicans refused to allow her to introduce an amendment to the bill that would ban men having vasectomies unless the procedure was needed to save their lives – a key clause of the anti-abortion bill. She was ruled out of order after protesting that she had not been allowed to speak.

”If we truly want to make sure children are born, we would regulate vasectomies,” Byrum told reporters.

Both women accused Republicans of censorship and misogyny.