North Dakota Champions and a Michigan Chump
This week’s champ title goes to Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund (PPMNSAF) who worked on behalf of North Dakotans Against Measure Three to educate voters about the dangerous ballot initiative in their home state.
Thanks to their hard work, voters in North Dakota decisively rejected the “Religious Liberties Restoration Amendment,” which could have set a dangerous precedent and allowed those seeking to make religious refusal of health services a political issue.
The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution already protects religious freedom, but that didn’t stop some from pushing this religious refusal measure, that was squarely aimed at eliminating key protections built into the Affordable Care Act — including no co-pay birth control.
But after spending weeks educating voters, making thousands of “get out the vote” calls, and knocking on over 4,000 doors, North Dakotans Against Measure 3 got their message across and reaffirmed that the public supports access to birth control.
Unfortunately not everyone who lives in the Midwest is a champion of women’s health. Last week, the Michigan House earned the Chump crown after introducing a sweeping abortion bill and denying dozens of women, as well as medical professionals, the opportunity to testify against the bill in a public hearing.
Well, this week, Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger gave us no choice but to issue chump status to him directly. His offense? He banned two women state representatives from speaking on the House floor — according to a spokesperson, one for the “way she used” her words, the other for — get this — “a temper tantrum.”
State Reps. Barb Byrum and Lisa Brown weren’t the only ones who wanted to speak out against the bill, nor were they the only ones prevented from doing so.
Dozens of women, as well as Planned Parenthood of Mid and South Michigan, the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, and the Michigan State Medical Society were blocked from testifying from a committee hearing on the bill. In response, 400 women, doctors and women’s health advocates rallied at the State House. The following day, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan delivered 10,000 signatures against the most extreme abortion ban in the state’s history,
When asked to explain why he was trying to silence his fellow lawmakers and deny the protest of thousands of Michiganders, House Speaker Bolger’s office said,
It is the responsibility of the Majority Floor Leader, the presiding officer and every Representative to maintain the decorum of the House. Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas has informed Minority Floor Leader Segal that Reps. Brown and Byrum will not be recognized to speak on the House floor today after being gaveled down for their comments and actions yesterday that failed to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives. Under Rep. Stamas’ floor leadership, the House Republicans have allowed more debate on the House floor than ever seen in the past few sessions when House Democrats were in charge. House Republicans often go beyond simply allowing debate by welcoming open and passionate discussion of the issues before this chamber. The only way we can continue doing so, however, is to ensure that the proper level of maturity and civility are maintained on the House floor.
Maturity and civility? These women were attempting to discuss issues in medical terms that directly affect women’s health and rights, and were silenced by Bolger for speaking out.
Women should be able to speak about the issues that directly impact them, and if politicians are going to try and regulate women’s health they should be prepared to discuss the issues fully.
For trying unsuccessfully to silence women — elected representatives of Michigan citizens, no less — and banning these two state representatives from speaking on the House Floor, Bolger earns the title of Chump of the Week.