Democrat Representatives Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Norton (D-DC) decided to protest the absence of female witnesses at a hearing over the President’s contraception hearing today by removing two women — themselves — from the room.
The hearing before the Oversight Committee, chaired by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), evidently angered the two Congresswomen by booking only male witnesses (this included witnesses on the liberal side of the issue). As a result, they decided to leave the room rather than stay and express the feminine viewpoint they apparently thought the hearing was lacking. Politico reports on the odd — and somewhat self-defeating — incident:
“What I want to know is, where are the women?” asked Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) before walking out. “I look at this panel [of witnesses], 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.”
Maloney had urged Chairman Issa to accept just one female witness — a Law student at Georgetown University — to testify. They claimed the fact that Georgetown was a Catholic university and this student was being provided care by said university meant that she could be deprived of contraception if not for the administration’s mandate. Issa declined to allow the witness in, claiming she was irrelevant to the hearing, which was not about contraception, but about religious freedom — a subject that a Law student was not qualified to discuss with authority. The women scorned did not react well. Maloney walked out, only to sneak back in later. Norton wasn’t quite so easily silenced:
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) attempted to force a vote on seating Fluke, saying the chairman was breaking committee rules. When he ignored her motion, Norton and Maloney walked out. Maloney later returned. Norton did not.
Norton accused Issa of “pretzel turning of the rules so as to deny us a witness” in a press conference convened in the hallway. She said the hearing was “the kind you expect in an autocratic regime.”
The law student in question — Sandra Fluke — also didn’t go down fighting, claiming a friend of hers had died because of lack of access to contraception, and accusing Issa of silencing the very people with the most authority to talk about the subject.
“I feel that the women this affects are the most qualified to speak on this matter,” Fluke said.