Their job may be to give a voice to their constituents, but two Michigan state representatives had to do that job silently today after they were banned from speaking on the House floor.
Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum, both Democrats, were barred from participating in debates Thursday because they were “disrupting decorum” during debate on Wednesday over three bills that would put restrictions on abortions, said Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger.
The cause of Brown’s gag order was this statement, which she made during a floor speech opposing a bill that would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks: “I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but no means no.”
Byrum’s speaking privileges were revoked after the state congresswoman shouted multiple times at the legislature’s chairman that she should be given a chance to speak on her amendment, a chance she was not given during debate Wednesday.
“This is yet another example of this Republican majority’s misogynistic and cowardly tactics,” Brown said in a statement. “Regardless of their reasoning, this is a violation of my First Amendment rights and directly impedes my ability to serve the people who elected me into office.”
Adler said the Republican leadership’s verbal order barring the two representatives from speaking was nothing new in the Michigan state house.
“It was a rather common practice when House Democrats had control and would not recognize any Republicans to speak,” Adler said.
The Democrats were just as up in arms about why they were prohibited from speaking as they were that their speaking privileges were being revoked.
“If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it,” Brown said of her choice to use the word “vagina.”
But Adler insisted Brown was not being reprimanded because of the word, but rather because of the context, which he said was “inappropriate.”
The representatives’ outbursts came during a day of heated debate over a bill that would implement screenings to see if doctors were coercing patients to get abortions, mandate in-person consultations with a physician before women can purchase the morning-after pill, and increase the licensing and insurance requirements for abortion-performing doctors and clinics.
The bill passed the House on Wednesday and the Senate is expected to begin debating it in the fall.