Transcript: Rep. Elijah Cummings attacks Republican ‘morality’ bill allowing corporations to arbitrarily deny women prenatal & contraceptive care

Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) at the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee's hearing on women's reproductive health and access to contraception. SOURCE: C-Span.org

Hearing on women’s reproductive health and contraception before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee held on Feb. 23, 2012

Transcript of opening remarks by Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.):

“Thank you very much, Madam Leader, for hosting today’s event, and thank you, Ms. [Sandra] Fluke, for coming here today to share the testimony you were banned from giving last week.

“When Chairman [Darrell] Issa (R-Calif.) rejected your testimony for the [House] Oversight Committee, he argued that his hearing was not about contraceptives and was not about women’s reproductive rights. He said you are – and I quote – ‘a college student who appears to have become energized over this issue.’ And that you are not ‘appropriate or qualified’ to testify and that you did not ‘the appropriate credentials’ to appear before the committee. Obviously, everyone on this panel disagrees with him.

Read more: Sandra Fluke draws attention to financial & health burdens women suffer without contraceptive coverage

“As I sat there and listened to the Chairman try to explain his position, I looked out on a panel of men. I could not help but wonder what credentials did they have to talk about the importance of the pill to the lives of women. In my opinion, the Chairman committed a massive injustice by trying to pretend that the views of millions of women across the country are irrelevant to this debate. And that is what really offends people. Even if they did not agree with you, Ms. Fluke, that is no reason to silence you. That is no reason to deny you a voice in the debate or literally a seat at the table.

“So I thank you for coming here today to finally give the other side – the side of millions of women across the country who want safe and affordable coverage for basic preventive health care, including contraceptives. I look forward to hearing from you today.

“Let me add that I fully understand the religious component of this debate. My mother’s a strong and independent woman who commands respect. She is also a woman of faith and has been an independent pastor in a small Pentecostal church in Baltimore for all my life.

“I understand the importance of this issue to all women, including women of faith. That is why I commend the administration for the accommodation it made to allow women working at religiously-affiliated organizations to obtain coverage for contraceptives directly through their health insurance companies.

“Unfortunately, last week’s completely one-sided hearing was not an isolated incident. Right now, a nationwide campaign is being conducted at both the state and federal levels to outlaw many forms of commonly-used contraceptives. These efforts include legislation and ballot initiatives in multiple state as well as legislations proposed right here in the House of Representatives and the Senate intended to outlaw the pill as well as other forms of contraceptives such as IUDs.

“The so-called ‘morality legislation’ is intended to permit any employer, including for-profit sector companies, to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives that are contrary to their religious beliefs or even broadly to even any of their moral convictions. Finally, under this legislation a CEO could decide to ban coverage of the pill for unmarried women employees. He could deny coverage for routine prenatal care and testing. He could deny medically-prescribed IUDs – all in the name of undefined moral convictions.

“Madam Leader, I am obviously not a woman. So I can never fully understand how central this issue is to the lives of millions of women across this country. But I am here today to support their right to exercise control over their lives and their bodies and to make sure that they are never, ever, never, ever denied a voice in this debate.

“With that, I yield back.”

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