From Congress to the States, a Champ and a Chump
Our Champ this week is a bit different than usual. She’s not a governor or even a local representative; she is a woman with a voice — someone who proved to Americans across the country that women deserve a seat at the table. We’re giving our coveted champ title to Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke, who sparked a conversation across the nation about the need for female voices in the birth control debate.
After being denied the opportunity to testify at last week’s committee hearing on women’s health because (according to committee chairman Darrell Issa) she wasn’t “qualified,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and fellow House Democrats hosted an unofficial hearing so Sandra could share her story.
She spoke of her friends at Georgetown who were denied access to affordable birth control and discussed the Blunt amendment, which would allow any employer to deny their employees the right to certain health care coverage based on a so-called “moral conviction”:
These exceptions don’t accomplish their well-intended goals, because when you let university administrators or other employers, rather than women and their doctors, dictate whose medical needs are legitimate and whose aren’t, a woman’s health takes a back seat to a bureaucracy focused on policing her body.
Nothing should be more critical then hearing the voices of women, especially when it comes to issues that directly relate to their health.
At the end of the day, when it comes to issues like birth control and women’s health, women should have a say. Perhaps Fluke said it best, “I’m an American woman who uses contraception …That makes me qualified.”
Speaking of being qualified, this leads us to our Chump of the Week: Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell. In the past week, much of the women’s health chatter revolved around politicians in Virginia who, thinking they know better than women and their doctors, attempted to insert themselves in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship with a new ultrasound bill that would require every woman seeking abortion care to have an ultrasound performed at least 24 hours in advance. The bill had nothing to do with supporting women’s health, and was entirely political — another means to judge and demean women seeking reproductive health care.
It was all but expected to pass until Governor Bob McDonnell, who had previously announced his support, reversed his decision at the last minute. Maybe it was because of the huge outpouring of people both locally and nationally coming out against the bill? McDonnell said he didn’t “realize” that the law would require an invasive procedure or that there were different kinds of ultrasounds. Apparently, he hadn’t paid attention to the bill because as governor, "You're so busy advocating your agenda, you don't read every legislator's bill." Well that sounds encouraging — a bill that has the potential to impact millions of women and he hadn’t even paid attention?
In spite of these comments, the governor is missing the point. This bill is an effort to cut off women’s health care in Virginia and represents a broad overreach by the state government. The amended bill (which passed the House on Wednesday) would require women seeking abortion care to undergo an ultrasound procedure and face a mandatory waiting period. The bottom line is the bill has nothing to do with supporting Virginia women’s health.. It is a method of shaming and demeaning women who are seeking reproductive health care, and would discriminate against many poor and rural women who are forced to travel to see a medical doctor and would have to delay their stay based on the new requirement.
For his inability to understand what’s truly at stake for women’s health, and for thinking that politicians know better than women and their doctors, Governor McDonnell is our Chump of the Week.
To end on a happier note, we’d like to give Amy “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” Poehler an honorable mention for Champ of the week! If you haven’t seen it already (or have and love it as much as we do), watch this awesome SNL skit on the ultrasound bill in Virginia.