Pelosi Criticizes Hearing That Featured Two Women: ‘Where Are The Women?’

By Elizabeth Harrington | February 16, 2012 | 8:18 PM EST

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) criticized a House Committee hearing on religious liberty on Thursday for featuring no women to testify on “women’s health,” saying it was “symbolic of the whole debate as to who is making these decisions about women's health,” although two women actually did testify at the hearing.

Pelosi made her remarks at a press conference in the Capitol.

The Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, headed by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), held the hearing to address an Obamacare regulation and the question,  “Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” There were 10 witnesses divided into two panels. The two women – Dr. Allison Dabbs Garrett, senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University, and Laura Champion, M.D., medical director of Calvin College Health Services -- testified during the second panel.

The hearing focused on a finalized Obamacare rule that requires all health insurance policies to offer sterilization and contraceptives, including those that induce abortion, free of charge. Numerous religious groups, including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), and at least 158 members of Congress have denounced the rule as a violation of religious liberty that would force people to subsidize products and services that are contrary to their faith.

While the House committee focused on the issue of religious freedom, Rep. Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at a press conference that the real issue was about women’s health care.

“Right now, as we gather here, in another part of the Capitol there is a hearing,” said Pelosi.  “Five men are testifying on women's health.”

The first panel did feature five men, including the Most Reverend William E. Lori, Bishop of Bridgeport, representing the USCCB, and four other leaders of differing faiths.  Pelosi did not mention the two women in the second panel.

Pelosi continued:  “My colleague [Rep.] Carolyn Maloney of New York, who is on the committee, looked down at this panel from which a woman, who was the Democratic witness, was excluded and said, ‘Where are the women?’  And that's a good question for the whole debate.  Where are the women?”

The Most Reverend William E. Lori, Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn. (AP Photo)

The Democratic witness referenced was Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown University Law student who has a classmate who, Fluke claims, she lost an ovary due to lack of access to birth control.  Fluke was excluded from the panel because the hearing was about religious liberty, not contraception, and she was not “appropriate and qualified” to testify, Issa said.

“Where are the women on that panel?” Pelosi said.  “Imagine, they are having a panel on women's health and they don't have any women on the panel.”

“Duh?” she said.

“What is it that men don't understand about women's health, then how central the issue of family planning is to that?” Pelosi continued.  “Not just if you're having families, but if you need those kinds of prescription drugs for your general health, which was the testimony they would have heard this morning if they had allowed a woman on the panel.”

“I think the fact they did not allow a woman on the panel is symbolic of the whole debate as to who is making these decisions about women's health and who should be covered,” Pelosi said.

“I think it's really curiouser and curiouser that as we get further into this debate the Republican leadership of this Congress thinks it's appropriate to have a hearing on a subject of women health and purposefully exclude women from the panel,” Pelosi added.

“What else do you need to know about the subject?  If you need to know more, tune in.  I may, I may at some point be moved to explain biology to my colleagues,” she said.

“This is not about politics, this is not about contraception, and this is not about depriving women of health care.  Rather, this is personal,” said Dr. Champion, who is responsible for negotiating and providing students with insurance coverage at a Christian liberal arts college, in her testimony.

“This is about my daily life as a physician, a Christian, and a medical services director,” she said.  “Whether I will be able as a physician to practice medicine within my belief system.”

“A government that is of the people, by the people, and for the people, should not force the people to violate their consciences,” Dr. Champion said.