July 12, 2012 — Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is rallying support for a pair of Michigan lawmakers who were banned by state House Republican leaders from the floor because of comments they made during a debate on abortion legislation, The Hill's "Healthwatch" reports (Viebeck, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/10).
On the House floor on June 13, Michigan Rep. Lisa Brown (D) concluded a speech opposing a package of antiabortion bills (HB 5711, HB 5712, HB 5713) by saying, "Finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no.'"
Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas (R) gaveled Brown out of order, and she was barred from speaking on the floor the next day.
Rep. Barb Byrum (D) also was not allowed to speak on June 14. The previous day she had been gaveled out of order when she objected to being denied the chance to speak in support of her amendment that would have required a man to provide proof of a medical emergency or a threat to his life before obtaining a vasectomy (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/15).
Peters' petition denounces the silencing of the two lawmakers and asks House Republican leaders to apologize to Byrum and Brown. As of Tuesday afternoon, the petition had 49,369 signatures, according to "Healthwatch." Peters in a video urged supporters to continue circulating the petition, because, "As the number of folks signing this petitions grows, so does our ability to stand up against Republican efforts to undermine women's health issues."
A spokesperson for Michigan House Speaker James Bolger (R) expressed frustration that the silencing incident has become politicized. "We are done commenting on the specific issue because the Democrats are using it as a distraction," spokesperson Ari Adler said, adding that the reason Brown was silenced was that she equated support for the bill "with rape" ("Healthwatch," The Hill, 7/10).