Activists in Detroit will gather on the steps of the Lansing Capitol building Monday to perform a rendition of the Tony Award-winning play the "Vagina Monologues" after a lawmaker was banned from the House floor last week after speaking out against increased oversight of abortions in the state.
The controversy centers around Rep. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, who was banned from the House Chamber after a debate that took place last Wednesday regarding House Bill 5711, legislation that would created several restrictions on abortion.
The restrictions include increasing insurance on abortion clinics, making it a crime to coerce women into having an abortion, regulation on the disposal of fetal remains, and the prohibition of teleconferences in prescribing abortion medication.
The bill passed the House in a 70-39 vote after an emotional, passionate debate ensued on the House floor.
During Wednesday's debate, Brown told those lawmakers: "Wherever there's a question of the life of the mother, or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favour of preserving the life of the mother.
"The status of the fetus as human life does not equal that of the mother. I have not asked you to adapt and adhere to my religious beliefs. Why are you asking me to adapt to yours?"
Brown concluded the speech by saying, "I'm flattered that you're all so interested in my vagina, but no means no."
The lawmaker was then banned from the House Chamber for the duration of Thursday's proceedings.
Brown's one-day censure was decided by House Speaker Pro Tempore John Walsh and Majority Floor Leader Jim Stamas, who argued that the censure was not implemented due to Brown's use of the word "vagina," but rather due to Brown's supposed implication of rape.
"The leadership took that to mean that she was comparing support of the legislation to raping women and that is where they thought it crossed the line and that something should be done," Ari Adler, spokesperson for Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger, told Detroit Free Press.
"My concern was the decorum of the House, not of anything she said," Stamas told Detroit News. "I ask all members to maintain a decorum of the House, and I felt it went too far yesterday," he added.
Brown still believes that she was banned due to her use of the word "vagina."
"They banned me from speaking because I dared say vagina, the correct, medical name of a part of a woman's anatomy these lawmakers are trying to regulate," she said in a press release, as reported by the Daily Mail.
"I'm outraged that there are Michigan legislators that not only want to dictate what women can do, but what we can say," she added.
Organizers of Monday night's event told the Detroit Free Press that roughly 2,000 people were expected to attend the "Vagina Monologues" performance at the Lansing Capitol building.
"Bring your belief that women can have a right to their bodies, have a right to their voices, have a right to determine what happens to their bodies -- whether they want children or don't want children," said Eve Ensler, the play's author, on a Facebook page created specifically for the event. Ensler reportedly plans to fly from California to attend the event.
Others critical of the bill have said they believe the real aim of lawmakers is to shut down abortion clinics in the state all together. However, legislators in favor of stronger regulation on abortion say it is to protect the lives of women and unborn children.
State Rep. Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte, told The Detroit News that the bill would ensure that the remains of aborted fetuses do not wind up in dumpsters -- as it would become law for doctors to have aborted fetal remains disposed of the same way dead bodies are handled.
"How can you argue that this child of God should be treated any different way?" Shaughnessy asked. "In this great state where we see television commercials touting Pure Michigan, it is shocking to me that something so repulsive and indecent as the dumping of babies in dumpsters could be allowed."
The HB 5711 will not be taken up in the state's Senate until at least September.