Showing an enlarged photograph of the all-male panel at Rep. Darrell Issa's committee hearing Thursday, a group of Democratic women senators took to the Senate floor today to protest the "assault on women," for excluding a women's perspective during the session on contraceptives.
"Reading the news this morning was like stepping into a time machine and going back 50 years," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said. "It's a picture that says a thousand words, and it's one that most women thought was left behind when pictures only came in black and white."
The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform hearing on the contraceptive coverage rule called an all-male panel with no women representatives, prompting some women members of Congress to walk out of the hearing in protest. Issa, a Republican from California, is the committee chairman.
Democratic women senators today came to back them up in protest of the hearing.
"I'm disappointed. I know it's a disappointment that's shared by millions of women across this country," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said. "I'm saddened that here we are in 2012 and a House committee would hold a hearing on women's health and deny women the ability to share their perspective."
Senator Murray said that while the recent "attacks" on women's health care seem "swift and sudden," she believes they are not.
"There is nothing new about these Republican attacks on our family planning decisions. In fact, from the moment they came into power, Republicans in the House of Representatives have been waging a war on women's health."
As for the hearing, Issa Thursday said Democrats could not add their witness because she was not a member of the clergy, but a student at Georgetown. He also faulted Democrats for not submitting the name of the witness, Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke, in time.
Issa's staff sent a letter to the Democrats, saying, "As the hearing is not about reproductive rights but instead about the administration's actions as they relate to freedom of religion and conscience, he believes that Ms. Fluke is not an appropriate witness."
But Sen. Kirstin Gillibrand, D-N.Y., promised that Democratic women senators will continue to stand up.
"If our Republican colleagues want to continue to take this issue head on, we will stand here as often as is necessary and draw a line in the sand that the Senate, the women of the Senate specifically, will continue to oppose these attacks on women's rights and women's health care."
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said her 16-year-old grandson saw the photo and instantaneously knew something was off. "It's all dudes," Boxer said, quoting her grandson.