Mich. Rep. Brown Recounts Aftermath of Discipline Over 'Vagina' Comment

June 22, 2012 — In a CNN opinion piece, Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown (D) writes that she was "shocked" when House Republican leaders banned her from the floor because of comments she made during a debate over antiabortion legislation. The House leadership "only made it worse for themselves" by denying that Brown's use of the word "vagina" was the reason for the discipline, she adds.

Brown explains that during the House's recent debate over "some of the most restrictive anti-choice legislation in the country," she ended a floor speech by saying, "Finally Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'" According to Brown, there was "virtually no response" to her use of the word at the time.

However, the next day, Brown learned that House leaders had barred her and Rep. Barb Byrum (D) from speaking on the floor. Rep. Mike Callton (R) "told the press that what [Brown] had said was so vile, so disgusting, that he could never bear to mention it in front of women or 'mixed company,'" she writes.

Explanation Shifts

Republicans "changed course" when people began to protest the silencing of the female legislators, Brown writes, adding that GOP lawmakers "insisted that they had no problem with vaginas" and that the punishment was in response to a "lack of decorum."

Later, they changed the explanation again, saying that Brown "was kept from speaking because [she] said 'no means no,'" she adds.

"Thousands of women, not only in Michigan but across the country and even around the globe, saw exactly what was going on," which was "a male-dominated legislative body going to great lengths to silence two women who dared speak in opposition to a measure that would limit access to our health care," Brown writes. She criticizes Rep. Jim Stamas (R), who issued the edict against her, for failing to "understand why it's outrageous not to just silence me, but my 90,000 constituents" (Brown, CNN, 6/21).