Why is this man so afraid of women? That's the only reason I can come up with to explain why Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) picked a panel of men to testify on the contraceptive coverage controversy before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. His first round of "experts" (shown being sworn in) was all male, and when asked to include a Georgetown law student who wanted to speak in favor of of contraceptive coverage, he said no.
As ABC News reports, his attempt at stacking the deck was called out by his colleagues:
"Where are the women?" the minority Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., asked early in the hearing.
She criticized...Issa, for wanting to "roll back the fundamental rights of women to a time when the government thought what happens in the bedroom is their business."
"We will not be forced back to that primitive era," she said....
Ranking committee member Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., wanted to invite third-year Georgetown Law Center student Sandra Fluke to testify, telling Issa it was important to have at least one woman at the witness table because the issue involved health repercussions for women.
Of the ten invited witnesses, 8 were men and none supported Obama's contraceptive coverage compromise. The second panel included two women, one a female physician. Conspicuously missing were two well-respected Catholic organizations clearly regarded as a threat by Issa:
Not invited, complained Democrats, were representatives from the Catholic Health Association, which is run by a woman and actually runs the Catholic hospitals, nor Catholic Charities, both of which said Friday they supported the president's plan.
Just like the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill hearings, a roomful of powerful white men get their say on an issue that impacts women from every walk of life and women are ignored or pushed aside.
Representatives Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) walked out of the hearings in protest although Maloney later returned to question the witnesses.
According to Sarah Posner at Religion Dispatches:
...Cummings, the son of two Pentecostal ministers, accused Issa of "promoting a conspiracy theory that the federal government is conducting a 'war' on religion." Cummings added that "The pill has had a profound impact on their well being, far more than any man in this room could know."...
Holmes Norton, an attorney, said the continuing "moral" objections to the coverage requirement are eliminated by the Obama accommodation of last Friday, which she called an "extraordinary win-win" because the objecting institutions will not have to pay for the coverage because that cost was shifted to the insurance companies. Now, she said, their continuing objection "is to women who work for them getting contraception."
Holmes Norton who teaches at Georgetown Law Center characterized the institution as "the foremost Catholic university in the country." As Fluke herself said, "I don't understand how you can have an open conversation without hearing from the women who have been personally affected by this."
Photo of Darrell Issa © Mark Wilson/Getty Images