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Members walk out at House contraception hearing

Feb. 16, 2012 at 7:24 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, Feb. 16 (UPI) -- Democratic women members of a U.S. House committee walked out of a hearing on the White House contraception mandate to protest the all-male panel of witnesses.

There were no women on the morning panel of witnesses called to a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, although the committee did include two women in its afternoon panel. Both female witnesses oppose a federal rule requiring insurance plans to include contraception coverage with no co-pays, The Hill reported.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., speaking with reports on Capitol Hill, criticized the Republican majority on the committee for assembling a nearly all-male roster of witnesses for the hearing, which committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., titled: "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama administration trampled on freedom of religion and freedom of conscience?"

"Imagine they're having a panel on women's health, and they don't have any women on the panel -- duh!" Pelosi said. "What is it that men don't understand about women's health and how central the issue of family planning is to that?"

Becca Watkins, a spokeswoman for Issa, noted in an e-mail to The Hill the afternoon panel included two women and said Pelosi was "either ill informed or arrogantly dismissive of women who don't share her views."

The women who were called to testify during the afternoon session were Dr. Allison Garrett of Oklahoma Christian University and Dr. Laura Champion of Calvin College Health Services.

Most Democratic women members of the House committee walked out after Issa refused to allow Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University law student who supports the administration's policy, to testify, the report said.

Pelosi said the issue is reproductive rights, not religious liberty, as opponents of the administration contend.

"If you need to know more, tune in," she said. "I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues."

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