Michigan State Rep. Lisa Brown Banned from Speaking After Opposing Abortion Law

This week, Michigan approved one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country -- and House Republicans banned two female Democratic representatives from speaking on the House floor after they opposed the bill.

State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum, both Democrats, were not officially told why the ban was put in place or how long it will be enforced, Brown said in a statement on Thursday.

"Both Representative Byrum and I were gaveled down without cause yesterday while voicing our opposition to the Republican's war on women here in Michigan," Brown said. "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."

The bill (HB5711), which passed 70 to 39 with one representative abstaining, would severely restrict women's access to non-abortion health care services by imposing difficult-to-meet regulations that could ultimately force most clinics in the state to close. Another bill, which would criminalize abortions performed after 20 weeks gestation for any reason, was tabled for now.

"I have not asked you to adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adopt yours?" Brown said. "And finally, Mr. Speaker, I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but 'no' means 'no'."

"I was either banned for being Jewish and rightfully pointing out that House Bill 5711 was forcing contradictory religious beliefs upon me and any other religion," Brown said in a statement. "Or it is because I said the word 'vagina' which is an anatomically, medically correct term. If they are going to legislate my anatomy, I see no reason why I cannot mention it."

According to Ari Adler, a spokesman for the Republican majority, Republican Speaker Pro Tem John Walsh called Brown out of order, not for saying "vagina," but for saying "no means no," something which he says suggested that Brown was comparing the abortion legislation to rape.

"What she said was offensive," Republican representative Mike Callton told the Detroit News. "It was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company."

"If I can't say the word vagina, why are we legislating vaginas?" Brown asked Thursday at a press conference. "What language should I use?"

Regardless of where you stand on the abortion debate, what does it mean when elected officials are prohibited from speaking while bills that affect them are being discussed?

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