House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) defended his decision to not allow a women to testify at his hearing on the Obama administration’s new birth control rule yesterday, telling Fox News host Greta Van Susteren last night that the woman’s story wasn’t at all relevant to the hearing.
Democrats had originally planned to have Rev. Barry Lynn, a prominent supporter of the separation of Church and State, testify, but decided that a woman’s voice was needed, as every single other witness was a man. They tried bring in someone who has been personally affected by the issue — Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church and does not insure birth control for students — but Issa refused.
Appearing on Fox News with host Greta Van Susteren last night, Issa defended the decision, saying Fluke was unqualified to speak and that her first hand experience “wasn’t in any way related” to the issue at hand:
ISSA: They then wanted a different witness, a college student, who really didn’t belong on that panel for obvious reasons. […]
She had a compelling story, a very sad story of a classmate who developed an ovarian cyst that might have been prevented by using contraception in another way, one that by the way, the Catholic bishop and everyone else there said is fully allowed, under their faith. But it was one of those things where her story was compelling, but it wasn’t in any way related to the point of the stated reason for hearing.
Of course, while Issa and other conservatives has tried to claim that the birth control issue is exclusively about religious liberty, it unquestionably about women’s health as well. To silence a women with firsthand experience by claiming her voice is irrelevant is ludicrous and suggests Issa afraid to let the other side tell its story, as most Americans disagree with his position.
Catholic colleges may be okay with using contraception to treat health conditions on paper, but as Fluke’s story suggests, in reality, such a policy can still limit access and endanger women’s health.