Congressional Hearing on Contraception Precludes Women
Two female Reps. walked out of a Capitol Hill hearing on Obama’s contraception regulation Thursday after House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) refused to allow a woman to testify as a witness. The hearing was examining a Health and Human Services ruling that requires institutions with religious affiliations to provide contraception coverage to their employees. In particular, the panel sought to resolve whether this ruling was infringing on the religious rights and freedoms of those opposed to birth control.
But after Issa rejected their attempts to get a woman to testify, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the male-dominated hearing. Of the 10 witnesses featured on the first panel, all were men. Democratic members of the committee were only allowed to present a single witness, but when they chose Georgetown Law School student Sandra Fluke, she was turned away by Issa, who cited her lack of credentials and inexperience with health care law.
Fluke does, however, have sufficient experience with the repercussions of health care plans that do not provide contraception for women. Had she been allowed to testify, she would have explained how her classmate suffered from an ovarian syndrome that could have been prevented or combated with access to birth control. Despite the fact that her prescription would not have been used as a contraceptive, she was unable to get the proper services from Georgetown University, a Jesuit college which does not include birth control in its student health coverage. Fluke’s classmate eventually needed to have an ovary surgically removed, thereby jeopardizing her chances of ever bearing a child.
All of that was empty histrionics to Issa, who maintained that “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.” Based on the Democratic furor over the biased panel, including an incredulous Nancy Pelosi, Issa’s logic seems destructively flawed. Representatives wondered how panels comprised almost entirely of men could weigh in on an issue that has such enormous health implications for women. Calling on male religious leaders to voice their ecclesiastical gripes with women’s rights to health care seemed doctrinaire to Sandra Fluke and the democrats who wanted her and her story represented.