Live-Tweet Rundown: Today’s Sham Hearing about Birth Control Coverage

By Meghan Shalvoy

We’ve all seen the picture. We know what’s wrong. It’s obvious. So obvious, in fact that it’s unbelievable that the Majority members of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform didn’t see a problem with having a panel of five men to talk about birth control coverage!

Even after the President announced implementation that would allow women to have the same coverage provided by insurance companies without having religiously affiliated organizations with moral objections spend their money on the coverage, opponents to reproductive rights in Congress are unrelenting in their mission to ignore medical evidence and the opinions of the majority of Americans in favor of setting women’s rights back 50 years.

I was (un)fortunate enough to be there, to see it all, hear it all, and tweet it all. Here’s a round-up with some expanded commentary.

Rep. Darrell Issa, ranking majority member and chair of the hearing, spent the first several minutes of the hearing explaining that this hearing was intended to “fully vet” where government reach ends and people’s rights begin, specifically in relation to “the Obama Administration’s decision to require all health insurance plans to offer free contraceptive and abortifacient drugs.” SO many things wrong with that.

Worse is that every majority witness was a religious leader of some sort, the majority white men – and Sandra Fluke, a law student from Georgetown who would actually be effected by these regulations, was rejected late on Wednesday because the hearing is “not about reproductive rights.” Ha.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney spoke to the glaring imbalance on the panel of five men, and called them out on the claim that this issue is not about reproductive rights.

In spite of the Majority members claims that this is not about reproductive rights and their witnesses attempts to mask the issue with remarkably terrible analogies (Kosher delis = Catholic hospitals? Ham sandwich = birth control?), each witness vehemently focus on their objection to what they were being required to do, not the fact that it was being required. Each incorrectly classified contraceptives such as IUDs and Plan B/emergency contraceptive as “abortifacients” and yet neglected to address the issue of women’s health needs and choices.

I mean, how many women actually use birth control anyway? Wait… that would be…. 99% of women, including 98% of Catholic women.

After voicing objections and concerned related to the legitimacy of the panel that went rejected and ignored by the Majority, Representatives Norton, Maloney and Tierney left the hearing in obvious protest.

Also notable is that on this influential committee, only four of the 40 members are women. At the time of this tweet, Reps. Norton and Maloney were the only women from the committee present.

When faced with questions about how other Catholic organizations, most notably the largest network of Catholic health centers/systems Catholic Health Association of the United States, support the President’s plan to implement this requirement, Bishop Lori claims the Bishops are the one who speak for the (pardon the typo) *church.

Which begs the question — have you actually spoken to any of the women in your churches? Maybe they are only speaking to the 2 out of 100 that choose (or need) to use birth control in their lives. Then of course there are the 90% of Catholics who believe that church leadership do not have the final say about contraception.

Individual religious liberty and moral decision-making didn’t arise as a priority for these men.

For a hearing about religious liberty, they sure talked a lot about abortion!

Again, scientifically inaccurate. Birth control doesn’t cause abortions. Moving on…

This made me proud to be a Virginian. (Not easy right now!) Representative Gerry Connolly called out the entire hearing as a sham and spoke vehemently on how shameful it was for these religious leaders from otherwise respected religious institutions to allow themselves to be used for such a political endgame. You have to see it yourself — skip to 1:26:00.

You hear that ladies? If you go to work for religiously affiliated school or hospital whose mission is otherwise to care for people and uphold values like peace and justice, you should be expected to have your basic reproductive health care needs singled out for exclusion.

The one witness put forth by the minority and accepted for the panel by the majority for the hearing Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, did not come to testify at the hearing. Something tells me he didn’t oversleep. Minutes into the second panel of religiously affiliated university administrators who were interested only in speaking about their own freedoms and not those of their students or faculty, all minority Members of Congress including ranking committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings left the room, and we did too.

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