The House passage of Michigan’s most sweeping piece of anti-abortion legislation made headlines both locally and nationally, but has become just a blip on the map in comparison to the outrage the fallout from the debate provoked.
The following day, reports came out that two Democratic female Representatives were being punished for their behavior during the floor debate, and as a result were not being allowed to speak during debates on any other bills, either.
Ari Adler, spokesman for the Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolton, claims the women aren’t being silenced because of using “vulgar” terms like “vagina,” but for throwing “temper tantrums”. Michigan Liberal posts an email that allegedly was sent to press contacts from Adler that states:
To the Capitol Press Corps,
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Just to be clear, despite the misinformation being spread by Reps. Brown and Byrum, and Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, there are two representatives not being recognized on the House floor today because of their actions yesterday. It has nothing to do with their gender, their religion or the topic they were discussing. All day today, we have had representatives of both parties, both genders and several different religions passionately debating important issues that will significantly impact the future of Michigan. I would urge you not to become too distracted by temper tantrums designed to score political points.
Eric at Michigan Liberal writes:
[H]e essentially confirms that Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum were punished today for saying the words “vagina” and “vasectomy” during a floor debate about a bill regulating what kind of ownership women are allowed to exercise over their reproductive systems. In fact, to do so is to throw a “temper tantrum.” In a more enlightened age, he might even suggested that both of them had “a friend in town” … wink, wink, nudge, nudge, we all know that “they” synchronize when “they” work together.
“There’s a long history of endemic sexism in the Michigan Legislature, and it’s gotten really, really bad in the last half year,” said Eric via email. The public record shows he is right. In January, Michigan Michigan Republican Party Executive Director Greg McNeilly called female Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer a “government hooker” via twitter. It appears to have been going downhill ever since, and the anti-choice superbill has brought all of that to a head.
Whether or not the silencing of the female legislators truly were another symptom of the party’s sexism, the Republican legislators are determined to say the issue was the women’s “attitude” rather than their words. Speaker Bolton, defending himself from both accusations of sexism and that he may have targetted Rep. Lisa Brown for her Jewish faith, told MLive:
We “expect professionalism. And she showed a complete lack of professionalism. To then go to her religion shows her continued inappropriateness and her continued lack of professionalism. She knows full well that had nothing to do with faith and absolutely (was) all about her lack of professionalism.”
Even the female Republicans are being brought in to reinforce the message. Assistant House Majority Leader Lisa Posthumus Lyons releases a statement of her own, where she called Whitmar a “liar” for claiming women were being silenced on the floor, and called out Brown for her lack of “professionalism” as well.
“As a woman and mother, I was personally offended by Rep. Lisa Brown’s disgraceful actions during Wednesday’s floor debate. Her comments compared the support of legislation protecting women and life to rape and I fully support Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas’ decision to maintain professionalism and order on the House floor.”
In the Michigan legislature, being “professional” means being polite, non-controversial and demure. At least, it does if you are a woman.