How Representative Lisa Brown Is Re-Framing the Discussion of Women’s Health

by: Timothy

If I still lived in Michigan—and had the money—I would pack up my things and move to West Bloomfield so I could vote for Rep. Lisa Brown. Recently, the Speaker of the House (currently one Mr. Jase Bolger) prevented her from doing her job—debating on the House floor—after she spoke out against the horrible measure that would require all women’s health clinics to be coded to the same exact standards as hospitals. The law (which easily passed the overwhelmingly Republican controlled House) was framed in a way that Republicans could argue that they were protecting the health of women in Michigan. It would have put many clinics that provided abortions out of business. Luckily, current clinics have been “grandfathered” in and are not required to make updates.

I think to make sense of what has happened to Rep. Brown, you should listen to her comments. I think there are three things about her comments that were, according to Republican ideology, worthy of censure. First, she’s a woman speaking up for other women. That’s just a no no. Second, she’s a Jewish woman speaking about an alternatively held religious conviction that requires doctors to perform abortions. Pay close attention to the belief that a woman’s life is held higher than the life of a fetus. That’s contradictory to the Christian view that “every sperm is sacred.” Surely, such a public profession of distinct spiritual views must not be tolerated!

Third and finally, I rewrite her last line: “And finally, Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.'” This is not about a woman saying vagina in public, though that is reason enough for Republican men in the House to clutch their pearls! I can just imagine the conservative men in the room thinking “Wait a tick. Did she just say vagina! She can’t say that! How uncivil, how indecent!” That would be enough to warrant conservative rage. But this is not simply about saying vagina in public. No.

There is another thing beyond the identification of a medically valid term “vagina” being asserted on a government stage. Rep. Brown rightly implied that the conservative war on women’s bodies is rape. It’s the appropriateness of Brown’s equation of conservative attacks on women as rape that is worthy of conservative censure. Despite pleas from women across the country to leave their bodies alone, conservative, Republicans have been forcing themselves on women’s bodies in subtle and not-so-subtle ways since Roe v. Wade. How else might we define such actions other than rape?

I support Rep. Brown’s new public talking point that equates unnecessary limitations on abortion as rape. Not a form of rape. Not rape-ish. Not physical assault on women’s bodies. Good ole fashioned rape. It’s Rep. Brown’s reframing of the debate that will open new doors to a system of rhetoric that progressives can use to change the nature of the dialogue between rapists and women’s rights activists.

Timothy  is a teacher of writing  He is an occasional Twitter user and obsessive FaceBook checker. When he grows up he wants to be Barney Frank during the 1980s or Rachel Maddow at any point in her life.

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