Talk about handing the Dems a made-for-the-election issue. This is just out from U.S. Rep and senate candidate Chris Murphy. I’m sure Rep. Issa will jump right on it …
March 1, 2012
The Honorable Darrell Issa
Oversight and Government Reform Committee
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairman Issa,
On February 16th you held a hearing entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” While the hearing was a result of the Administration’s recent rule regarding women’s access to contraceptives, women and women’s health were far from the focus. In fact, you, Subcommittee Chairman Lankford, and other Republican members, repeatedly stated that the hearing, and the issue at hand, was not about women’s health and contraception, but instead about religious freedom. We contend that women’s health is indeed at the center of this issue, and therefore request you convene a second hearing that focuses on how the new regulation will impact women, from the perspective of women.
The viewpoint of religious leaders and affiliates is certainly important in discussing the Department of Health and Human Service’s regulation regarding preventive health services for women, including birth control. That is why we are glad that we were able to hear that perspective during the hearing. Yet, that was the only perspective we heard. While the Majority had nine witnesses, of which only two were women, the Minority was denied even one. We invited third-year Georgetown University Law Center student Sandra Fluke to discuss the repercussions that denying coverage for contraceptive would have on women. Yet, you shut her out citing that, as relayed by your staff, “…the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception but instead about the Administration’s actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience….”
Not only was the dissenting voice of Ms. Fluke stifled from being heard, but so was a representational voice of all women. While women make up over 50% of our population, 99% of which have used contraceptives at one point in their lives, only two of the ten witnesses who testified were women. Instead, the committee spent the day questioning a predominately male witness panel about a critical issue to women’s health – access to birth control. Representative Lankford’s untrue contention that “women’s health is not the issue….and that contraceptives are available for free all around the country,” only highlights the need to bring women’s voices to this issue.
Birth control has been revolutionary for women. The ability to plan one’s family and other health benefits of birth control are crucial aspects of gender equality and economic empowerment of women. Yet, in 2012 women are still being marginalized from debate concerning their own lives. Even worse, there is failure here on the behalf of the Republican members of this committee to even acknowledge that women, not just religious beliefs, are what this debate is and should be about.
Again, we urge you to expeditiously schedule a hearing regarding the other side of this issue – women’s health. It should go without saying that, unlike what we saw earlier this month, such a hearing should include both Majority and Minority witnesses and better reflect the demographic most affected by this new rule: women.
Thank you for your consideration of this request.
CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
Member of Congress Member of Congress