What I Want to Know Is: Where Are the Women?

Statement by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney at the February 16th, 2012 hearing on the contraceptive mandate, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

For all our coverage of the 2012 House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Hearing, click here.

For all our coverage of the 2012 Contraceptive Mandate, click here.

Thank you, Ranking Member Cummings. I know you are a man of faith, and I know you place tremendous value on your faith and on open dialogue, so I appreciate your efforts to get a more balanced hearing today.

What I want to know is, where are the women? I look at this panel, and I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning.

Where are the women?

Mr. Chairman, I was deeply disturbed that you rejected our request to hear from a woman, a third year student at Georgetown law school named Sandra Fluke.

She hoped to tell this Committee about a classmate of hers, who was diagnosed with a syndrome that causes ovarian cysts. Her doctor prescribed the pill to treat this disease, but her student insurance didn’t cover it. Over several months she paid out hundreds of dollars in out-of-pocket costs, until she could no longer afford her medication. And she eventually ended up losing her ovary.

Your staff told us you personally rejected Ms. Fluke’s testimony, saying that, quote, “the hearing is not about reproductive rights and contraception.”

Of course this hearing is about rights—contraception and birth control. It’s about the fact that women want to have access to basic health services family planning through their health insurance plan. But some would prevent that from happening—by using lawsuits and ballot initiatives in dozens of states to roll back the fundamental rights of women to a time when the government thought what happened in the bedroom was their business and contraceptives were illegal. Tens of millions of us who are following these hearings lived through those times—and I can tell you with certainty—we will not be forced back to that dark and primitive era.

That is why – last week, the Administration announced a common-sense accommodation. Churches do not have to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives. They do not have to approve them, prescribe them, dispense them or use them. But women will have the right to access them – women who work at non-profit religious entities, like hospitals and universities, will be able to obtain coverage directly from their insurance companies—not from religious organizations—but from insurance companies.

Medical and health experts support this policy, economists support this, and a host of
Catholic groups that were conspicuously not invited today support this.
The vast majority of women—including women of faith—use some form of birth
control at some point in their lives, whether to plan the number or spacing of their children, or to address significant medical conditions.

With all due respect to the Bishops, though you have every right to follow your conscience and honor all the dictates of your faith – no one should have the power to impose their faith on others—to bend them to your will—simply because they work for you. That in itself—is an assault on the fundamental freedoms enshrined in our Constitution.

Mr. Chairman, I urge you once again, let Ms. Fluke testify. Let one woman speak on this panel—right now. She is here in the audience today—just steps away. Even if you think you will disagree with everything she says, don’t you owe it to the tens of millions of American women whose lives will be affected by what we do here today—to let just one—just one speak on their behalf? Thank you.

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  • bluestocking

    …and I know the answer as well as you do, because it’s blatantly obvious.

    I look at this panel, and I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning.

    Where are the women?

    Although nobody on the panel had the courage or the integrity to admit it publicly, the reason why there was nobody there to represent us is because they did not want to hear whatever what we might have to say and were trying to prevent us from playing any part in the discussion.  It’s that simple.  I know that you were trying to be circumspect, but referring to this as a dialogue was giving Cummings and the rest of the panel far more credit than they deserved.  It’s all too clear that they had essentially already decided what they thought, what they wanted to do, and what they believed we should be allowed to have…they were merely doing everything in their power to justify their own cognitive bias and make it seem as if their perspective is the more pervasive and/or ethical one.   This panel was not much different from a skulk of foxes initiating a panel in order to “discuss” the issue of whether the chickens should have the right to lock the door to the chicken coop…does anyone seriously believe they’d invite the chickens to participate in the debate, if they had their way?  The weasels, maybe…but not the chickens!