My Surprise Conversation with a Congresswoman


It’s not that hard to become disillusioned with politics lately, when it feels like individual rights are being challenged at every turn – especially if you’re a woman. Last week’s House hearing on birth control and religion not only fueled my frustration with the current political climate, but it also fueled me to write an open letter to Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, one of the few representatives who spoke out against the circus that was the House hearing.

It felt good to get it out there – to express my frustration with what has been going on in our country regarding women’s health care, and at the same time give thanks to those who stand up for us. The letter helped me voice these things, and provided a platform for others to share their feelings. While I called it an open letter to Congresswoman DeLauro, I never actually anticipated that she would read it.

Imagine my surprise when I received a phone call from her yesterday. Really.

My disillusionment in politics was shaken for a moment. It was a little surreal getting a phone call from the U.S. Capitol. Congresswoman DeLauro thanked me for my words, and, in turn, I thanked her for her attempt to share hers during Congressman Issa’s farce of a hearing.

After I took a few breaths and tamped down my fan-girling desire to squee (only natural, right?), I ended up having a pretty fantastic conversation with the Congresswoman. We discussed the hearing for a bit, and everything it entailed. Congresswoman DeLauro echoed my own thoughts when she said, “This whole situation is ugly.”

Ugly is right. The fact that a group of men were being called on to speak about women’s health is down right ugly and disastrous. (We were both equally baffled over MSNBC’s Morning Joe’s choice to have an all-male panel discuss the House hearing’s… all-male panel). Men can have a place at the table, but they should not be allowed to have the only voice in the discussion. To even think that washes away the years of fighting and struggling to achieve equality for women in this country.

Congresswoman DeLauro agreed with this sentiment and had some choice things to say about it.

It pushes back women’s individual rights. Look at what is happening in Virginia right now with the ultrasounds. It is a humiliation of women. It throw us back. You want to talk about violating individual rights? They’re having women be subject to a procedure whether they want it or not!

The Congresswoman and I spoke in the morning, before the Virginia General Assembly declared that transvaginal ultrasounds were optional. However, like in Texas, there will still be some sort of mandatory ultrasound required before a woman can obtain an abortion. The fact that bills like this are even on the table, speak to the larger point that Congresswoman DeLauro shared with me, “These institutions do not trust women.”

A lot of the discussion surrounding women’s health and reproductive rights can certainly be boiled down to trust…both the lack of trust and mistrust in women. Hearings like the one last week and bills like the one in Virginia are symptomatic of a larger issue that Congresswoman DeLauro is noticing:

I feel very strongly, particularly that its all about trying to put women back in this space and place from which we have moved as decision makers. All of this is meant to put women back where they “ought” to be: this old ideology of what a woman’s place is.

Her words rang true, as one of my greatest fears is that as we begin to strip away these essential rights, we will leave women in a place that we’ve fought hard to pull ourselves out from. It was heartening to hear that we do have representatives on the Hill that have the same fears and are working tirelessly to protect our rights. Between my conversation with Congresswoman DeLauro and today’s House hearing sponsored by Nancy Pelosi (which included Sandra Fluke’s testimony), my faith has been bolstered, and my desire and drive to continue the good fight has been fueled.

My conversation with the Congresswoman ended with this reminder from her: “It is important to speak out because these institutions will try to go as far as they can. It is important to speak out!”

If you want to speak out and fight for your reproductive rights, please check out The Coalition To Protect Women’s Health Care – an organization that is sharing real stories from women.

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Follow Avital Norman Nathman on twitter: @TheMamaFesto