Pelosi aims to draw contrast with GOP on contraception policy
February 23rd, 2012
05:43 PM ET
3 years ago

Pelosi aims to draw contrast with GOP on contraception policy

Washington (CNN) – Aiming to draw a sharp contrast with a Republican-organized hearing a week ago that included an all-male panel of witnesses, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi convened her Policy Committee Thursday to talk about the president's new contraception rule and featured a single witness – the woman the GOP wouldn't allow to testify.

Pelosi mocked House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa's explanation for rejecting the Democrats' chosen witness for last week's hearing - Sandra Fluke, a law student. He argued she wasn't qualified to appear on the panel because the subject was meant to be about religious freedom, not birth control or health care policy.

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"The question of who is qualified to be a witness raises the question of who is qualified to have a hearing, Pelosi said. "Does that person or that chairman or committee have any judgment on what it means to a family to personally and religiously make decisions about the size and timing of their family?"

Congress is in recess this week, but Pelosi scheduled a partisan meeting of just Democrats to give Fluke the chance to argue that women should have access to contraceptives, even if they work for religiously-affiliated organizations. In a cramped hearing room Pelosi and three other Democrats who are also on the Oversight committee piled on Issa and accused him of ignoring female voices on the topic a week ago.

Pelosi said that after last week's hearing she has heard from over 300,000 people who have demanded that women's views be heard.

New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney sat next to a giant poster of a picture of the all male panel at the Oversight hearing, and ridiculed the visual message.

"100% of those who give birth and plan their families are women. But 100% of those on that first panel talking about the access to family planning, the ability to plan and space your children, and basic preventive health care, there was not one single woman on that panel, what is wrong with this picture?" Maloney asked.

Pressed why she thought she wasn't allowed to testify last week, Fluke replied, "unfortunately Chairman Issa's head is somewhere I don't want to go."

Issa and his committee staff declined to comment on Pelosi's event.

Fluke suggested her story was not what the GOP-led committee wanted to hear. "What I have learned from this experience is that they say knowledge is power and evidently the knowledge of how this regulation will benefit millions of women's lives is very powerful and unfortunately evidently it's very threatening."

The third year law student gave details about fellow Georgetown University classmates who, Fluke said, had suffered medical complications because of the Catholic school's policy of not providing access to contraception. One friend of Fluke's told her she needed to take birth control pills to treat ovarian cysts, but when she couldn't get the pills, a medical complication led to surgery to remove her ovary.

Fluke also said another woman had told her that the school's policy on contraception made her avoid seeking care after she was raped because she believed treatment related to reproductive issues would not be covered by her health care plan.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, who had pushed for Fluke's participation in last week's hearing, said his male colleagues wouldn't have put up with the situation if the tables were turned.

"I asked the question, 'If this were a hearing on prostate cancer, and there was a lineup of women and no men,' I guarantee you men would not have stuck around because they would have said to themselves, 'you know, come on give me a break,'" Cummings said.

Washington. DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton remarked that the third year law student right out of "central casting" and represented the views of women across the country who believed access to birth control was a health care issue.

But Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Nebraska, who is the lead sponsor of House legislation to repeal the Obama Administration's recent regulation, told CNN from his Lincoln, Nebraska office that this debate was not about birth control, but about basic constitutional rights.

Fortenberry's bill would overturn the president's policy requiring insurers to provide contraceptive coverage, even to those who work for religiously-affiliated groups.

"The Respect for Rights of Conscious Act, which the original hearing was held upon, does not restrict access to any legal drug or procedure in America," Fortenberry told CNN. "It simply addresses the issue of the rights of conscious for all Americans' religious liberties."

In closing Thursday's session, Pelosi thanked Issa for giving her an opening to spotlight the issue. Many Democrats believe the debate will help energize female voters in an election year.

"We almost ought to thank the chairman for the, shall we say, lack of judgment that he had to arouse, to raise the awareness, because it's been very hard over the years to convince people that the fight here has been about contraception," Pelosi said.

soundoff (31 Responses)
  1. The GOP opens mouth and inserts foot

    Nancy, you're smart. The GOP is made up of the most ignorant people around.

    February 23, 2012 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    Many Democrats believe the debate will help energize female voters in an election year.
    __________________________________________________________________________________________________
    So rather than actually believing in an issue, Nancy Pelosi is really just pulling an election year political stunt.
    She is such an Obama Democrat it's hard to believe she's not from Chicago.

    February 23, 2012 06:13 pm at 6:13 pm |
  3. Claudia, Phoenix, AZ

    Newt Gingrich believes in "WOMAICIDE", when one wife is dying leave her for another.

    February 23, 2012 06:17 pm at 6:17 pm |
  4. cali girl

    Yes yes yes, a woman finally standing up the old grouchy men groups. You have my support!

    February 23, 2012 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  5. gopelosi

    go pelosi!

    you survived 2 years of massive gop focus-hate. It didn't work, got old, and now its over.
    and you never stopped fighting for us.

    Keep up the good fight.

    February 23, 2012 06:39 pm at 6:39 pm |
  6. Jim

    When is enough enough. I wish there were massive protests to kick these republican extremists the hell out of our personal lives.

    February 23, 2012 06:43 pm at 6:43 pm |
  7. Mom to 3

    The GOP always tries so hard to villify Nancy Pelosi and they have succeeded in causing her to have high unfavorability ratings. Nancy Pelosi is simply a strong, intelligent woman who as Speaker was able to pass through Congress everything that President Obama asked her to. She was effective, which is why the GOP hates her so much. The GOP obviously wants to treat women like we were back in the stone ages - how else do you explain their constant attacks on women's health care. They want women barefoot, pregnant, and at home depending on men. Thank goodness for Democrats and strong women like Pelosi! Hopefully women will stand up and show the GOP that we are not going to take this ridiculous "culture war" that they are trying to perpetrate on women because they have nothing else to run on. STRAIGHT DEMOCRATIC TICKET for this woman for 2012!!!

    February 23, 2012 06:50 pm at 6:50 pm |
  8. Ronald Romney

    It's not about contraception. It's about forcing others to comply with something that conflicts with thier religious beliefs. Dems have missed the point of the GOP discussions.

    February 23, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  9. PatSJ

    If the company has a religious objection to blood transfusions, can they bar the employee's health insurance from providing blood transfusions? If the company has a religious objection to eating pork, can they bar the employee's health plan from insuring those who eat pork? If the compan has a religious objection to pre-natal care, like Santorum stated he has, can they bar the insurance from providing that care?

    February 23, 2012 07:08 pm at 7:08 pm |
  10. Ronald Romney

    "Pelosi scheduled a partisan meeting of just Democrats". I guess everyone was in agreement then. Lol.

    February 23, 2012 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  11. Senior Citizen

    I don't know of any man who has died because of ED and they receive their Viagra etc. from their insurance companies. I had 3 miscarrages, after giving birth to 3 beautiful daughters, but my doctor at the time said I shouldn't have any more or it could cost me my life. I was Catholic and so was he, but I'm so thankful that my husband had a vascestamy. That was 1964 and I can't believe that where women are concerned not much has changed in the church or the way women are treated. It was one of many reasons why I left the Catholic Church, which seems to just hide the clergy who are abusing young boys.

    Why are men making these decisions about a womans body? We're still in the dark ages it seems. It's ok for my insurance to pay for Viagra for men just to satisfy their egos and not ok for them to pay for birth control for women when a birth control pill is used for many other purposes and to my way of thinking is misnamed. Just because your insurance will pay for something doesn't mean you have to use it. The insurance companies would rather pay for the birth control pills than the illnesses that may be caused because they are unavailable to many women.

    No pompas male is going to control me or my body. What happened to seperation of church and state. If they have to stick their noses into politics then they need to be taxed just like everyone else.

    February 23, 2012 07:11 pm at 7:11 pm |
  12. Ed Fl

    You have to remember that Issa is a California Male politician, females are not usually on their agenda.

    February 23, 2012 07:19 pm at 7:19 pm |
  13. normajean @ verizon ,com

    Every move the Repubs make from here on out to silence women and take away their personal rights will cost them dearly!!!!! You guys forget with whom you are dealing. We vote,too!. We also have other ways to show that we shoulld have the right to self determination when it comes to our own health care.....JUST FOR YOU SMART A-S REPUB. MEN...YOU WANT TO TRY GOOGLE UNDER THE HEADING "LYSISTRADA" and find out just how far you can push the females of our country!!! This is war,"boys".And by the way......WE VOTE TOO!!

    February 23, 2012 07:34 pm at 7:34 pm |
  14. Anonymous

    Big Religion is trying to get special rights to be exempted from the rules of commerce that all economic players must follow. Typical whiny phony victimhood.

    February 23, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  15. garc

    But of course this merits only a tiny, minor headline...while republican clown car moron sarah palin not liking a new movie about her is high up in the news.

    February 23, 2012 07:38 pm at 7:38 pm |
  16. harvty

    With the help of a biased, liberal media, the dems. keep pushing this as a women's rights, contraceptive issue. CNN is quickly becoming irrelevant as a news source – it is merely a mouthpiece for leftist propaganda. It is an issue of freedom to practice your religion. (period)

    February 23, 2012 07:46 pm at 7:46 pm |
  17. Jay

    Great Witness "Last summer, at band camp, this girl told me that she need BC Pills to cure cysts. And even though we pay $50k a year for law school, we don't have enogh money for the free clinic or Planned Parenthood. "

    February 23, 2012 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  18. bill

    Disturbing photo.

    February 23, 2012 07:55 pm at 7:55 pm |
  19. CBR

    To see a panel of men testifying about something that is a woman's issue is ludicrous. The Committee is doing everything it can to deny women the chance to testify. If we do not stand up to this blatant refusal to listed to us, then the women of this country should launch a campaign and writing and calling every member of Congress. We cannot sit back and watch this happen.

    They tell us that contraception is not natural. Well, how does coverage for Viagra pass that test. It is for men to extend his prowess, Please – I suggest that women decide about the inclusion of Viagra for coverage in insurance policies.

    February 23, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |
  20. Ron

    Republicans are mentally challenged and blatantly hypocritical on a host of issues, this being one of them. Fine, they just blew a gaping hole in their presidential rowboat. Self-inflicted idiocy.

    February 23, 2012 07:59 pm at 7:59 pm |
  21. J.V.Hodgson

    Making something available does not say you must use it and in no way impinges on your religious right not to use what is available. Its a convoluted thought when they do not restrict the sale of these items, and polls say some 72 % of Catholics are happy to use them and 83 % of others. Seems to me the GOP forgot what thier purpose is, being to have public policy inline with the peoples desires as a whole and not to allow a religious law to become federal law. This proposal in no way invalidates the catholic catechism or any other religion who do not wish to use contraception.
    They just dont listen to people who in this case are in a huge majority.
    Regards,
    Hodgson.

    February 23, 2012 08:06 pm at 8:06 pm |
  22. John Bell

    Rep. Fortenberry gives the game away with his talk of "conscious" - obviously he has no clue about "conscience", or care that other committed, religious people object to paying for the wars he supports.

    February 23, 2012 08:11 pm at 8:11 pm |
  23. hootin'nanny

    Congratulations Republicans, you have helped insure a miracle took place. I used to think I would never switch sides and become a Dem, nor did I ever think I would agree with Pelosi on anything.

    I have seen the Light, I am now a stalwart Dem and agree wholeheartedly with Pelosi.

    Yes Republicans, you have contributed to the miracle. Be proud. ~.^

    February 23, 2012 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  24. BeverlyNC

    The women of America are with the Democratic Party. Democrats understand women deserve rights to vote, to serve in office, to serve in the military, to work in responsible jobs in the workplace, and to make decisions on our healthcare and body with intelligence. Birth control is for women is not up to men. We need Republicans out of office so women are not disrespected, dismissed, and allowed to make decisions for our own lives. This is not about religious freedom. It is about Republican enforcing someone else's religious values on women. Enough. No more Republicans in any office come November. Let's keep moving America forward not backward. I stand with President Obama and the Democrats who stand up for me and my rights as a woman.

    February 23, 2012 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  25. Larry L

    It's 2012 and the Republicans are making an issue of contraception. Maybe we are sinning when we don't eat fish on Friday or when people of mixed race want to marry?

    February 23, 2012 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
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