Vagina Should Not Be a Dirty Word in Michigan and Indiana


Editor's Note: With 30 days left until the presidential election, PolicyMic's Audrey Farber will be posting a daily update on the state of abortion rights in the U.S., covering legislative challenges to Roe v. Wade in all 50 states. So far, we've gotten updates on Alabama, Ohio, Florida, Georgia, D.C., South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, VermontMassachusetts, Rhode IslandMaine and New Hampshire. Check back in every day to keep track!


Vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina, vagina. Imagine a debate over an abortion-regulating bill in which you are barred from using the word vagina. Well, this is the alternate universe Michigan House Representative Lisa Brown found herself in in June. She was barred from speaking in the House because Republicans, trying to push through one of the most restrictive abortion bills ever, objected to her use of the word “vagina.”

In an abortion debate.


Another female lawmaker was banned from speaking because she suggested the same controversial abortion regulations under debate in the House should apply to vasectomies. “If we're concerned about making sure babies are born, why are we not talking about vasectomies?” Barb Byrum quizzed her fellow representatives.

A third, Rashida Tlaib, suggested a boycott of men. “Stop having sex with us, gentlemen. Find somebody else to do it with. Seriously. I ask women across Michigan to boycott men until they stop moving out of this House.” [Video clip here.]

The bill, HB 5711, covers all its bases. It will require clinics to be equipped for surgery, even if they don’t perform surgical abortions. It will require doctors to carry $1,000,000 malpractice insurance. It would criminalize all abortions after 20 weeks except when the mother’s life is at risk. It would require doctors to be present for the administration of RU-486, also banning the use of “telemedicine” to administer the drug and prescribe emergency contraception (82% of Michigan women live in a county without an abortion provider). It would make it a crime to coerce a woman into an abortion, and would require doctors to screen for said coercion. It would also tighten regulations on the disposal of aborted fetuses, requiring those past 10 weeks “to be treated as a deceased infant” (e.g. burial, cremation, etc.).

This bill passed the house 70-39, and has passed preliminary hearings in Senate committee. However, final voting on this slew of regulations is not expected until November, even though there are no state Senate elections this year. Of the 38 Michigan Senate seats, 26 belong to Republicans and 12 to Democrats, an 18% increase in Republicanism since the previous Senate term. And “pro-life, pro-Second Amendment, pro-family” Republican Governor Rick Snyder isn’t up for re-election until 2014 so don’t look for a gubernatorial veto on this one.

Michigan already requires parental consent, state-directed counseling, and a 24-hour waiting period, and restricts access to public funding.

When I was in college in West Philadelphia, I vaguely remember some hullabaloo (the 2007 incident) regarding the proximity of a proposed liquor store to a neighborhood mosque. I was reminded of this by anti-abortion activists in South Bend, Indiana, opening a prayer chapel next door to a women’s health clinic.

This news comes just days after a women’s health clinic in Lafayette, Indiana, was accused — by Indiana Right to Life, no less — of violating an Indiana law requiring licensing for practitioners of surgical abortions. The Lafayette clinic, which provides RU-486, does not provide surgical abortions. Women’s rights opponents in Indiana are currently pushing lawmakers to close what they see as a loophole, requiring the same stringent requirements for providers of RU-486 as are required of surgical abortion providers. Currently Indiana law defines an abortion clinic as a “freestanding entity that performs surgical abortion procedures.”

It’s sort of a miraculous loophole, really. In 2011, Indiana faced the most “monstrously conceived and dangerous” anti-abortion plot of pretty much any state. HB 1210, which was signed by Governor Mitch Daniels in May 2011,“requires abortion providers to inform patients about the risks, requires women seeking an abortion to view the ultra-sound of the fetus unless she refuses in writing, prohibits health plans under federal health care reform law from providing abortion coverage, requires that a woman is told that human life begins at conception and requires she be told the fetus can feel pain at or before 20 weeks."

The only exception provided is for the life of the mother. When Democrats tried to insert an amendment to provide an exception for rape and incest, Republican Representative Eric Turner reminded us that: “Someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that this is rape or there’s incest.” The amendment was defeated.

In addition to its scientific questionable-ness, the bill would have also stripped Planned Parenthood of $2 million of its $3 million dollars in government funds by banning the use of Medicaid at Planned Parenthood, which the organization took to court and was initially upheld. This portion of the law was just recently ruled to be illegal, nearly a year later.