‘Vagina’ Speech Makes Michigan Lawmaker Symbol in Abortion Wars [View all]
By Chris Christoff - Jun 28, 2012 12:01 AM ET
June 28 Bloomberg) -- Ever since Lisa Brown sarcastically told fellow Michigan lawmakers that she was flattered by their interest in her private parts, her life has become a swirl of interviews, hugs, handshakes and a starring role in a Capitol steps performance of the “The Vagina Monologues.”
“That was the craziest week of my life,” said Brown, a 45-year-old Democrat from suburban Detroit who on June 13 used the word “vagina” in opposing a bill to regulate abortion clinics more strictly. The next day, Republicans prevented her from speaking, along with fellow state representative Democrat Barb Byrum, who yelled “vasectomy” when her pleas to speak were ignored.
The one-day gag order has become a rallying point for Democrats who accuse Republicans, who dominate the state Legislature, of trampling women’s rights and free speech. Videos of Brown’s and Byrum’s statements have become fodder for bloggers, talk radio and cable television as lawmakers across the nation debate a record number of bills aimed at making abortions more difficult to obtain.
Battles over such laws have flared in 14 states this year, including Mississippi, Kansas, Arizona, Texas and Florida, according to the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League in Washington and the Guttmacher Institute. In 2011, a record 92 such bills passed, according to the nonpartisan New York-based institute, which studies reproductive rights.