Woman prevented from testifying at House contraception hearing

Paula Duffy's picture

Two congresswomen walked out of a House committee hearing today on the subject of contraceptives being required under health care plans.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) was asked then implored by Rep.Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Rep Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to allow a female college student to testify on the subject of the hearing. There were no women among the witnesses scheduled to testify today.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee delved into the administration’s revised contraceptives rule and among the witnesses were religious leaders

The panel of witnesses was comprised of five men, with four more in the wings and committee Democrats demanded that Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) allow a female to speak, which Issa refused to do.

First there came a request from ranking member Rep. Elijah Woods (D-NC). When that was denied Issa got blasted by Maloney and Holmes Norton, who even attempted to call a vote on whether the student witness should be heard. That maneuver failed. Maloney and Holmes Norton left the chamber.

Rep. Issa told members of the committee that the student did not have the proper credentials to present testimony. Issa went on to point out that women are included on the witness list for other sessions scheduled on the subject, but not today.

Issa explained his reason for refusing the request. "...The hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience.

Religious liberty, not contraception, he stressed was the subject of the hearings. The provision under scrutiny by the committee does not require churches or houses of worship to comply.

The student intended to speak about a serious gynecological condition she has for which birth control pills have been prescribed. Without a plan that offers them, she would be unable to maintain her health.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said afterwards, "What is it that men don’t understand about women’s health and how central the issue of family planning is to that? Not just if you’re having families but if you need those kinds of prescription drugs for your general health, which was the testimony they would include this morning if they had allowed a woman on the panel."

The White House moved off its first position that contraception must be offered and paid for under the plan. When that was denounced because it would have required the employer to fund it, the administration changed its stance to have the insurance companies cover the cost.

That wasn't enough for those who believe that a religiously affiliated employer, such as a hospital or college should be exempt from including contraception under its employee benefit plan. The hearings are intended to explore the continued objection.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons/Ceridwyn

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