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Mo. Female Reps Ignored on Contraception Debate

Josie Butler, KMOX Capitol Bureau
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CBS St. Louis (con't)

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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMOX) - Seven female representatives voiced outrage at being ignored by Republican House leadership during a discussion on a resolution to President Barack Obama’s contraception mandate.

The House debated a resolution Wednesday that opposed the federal health care mandate. Republican representatives argued that the mandate would impede religious freedom and the federal government should not be involved in religious organizations.

Several women Democrats were not recognized by the Republican presiding officer, Rep. John Deihl, R-St. Louis County, when they rose to speak against the resolution.

Following adjournment, seven female House members, calling themselves “the silent seven,” held a news conference on the Capitol steps. Democratic members of the group include Jill Schupp, Margo McNeil, Jeanne Kirkton, Stacey Newman and Susan Carlson representing St. Louis, Mary Still of Columbia and Independent Tracy McCreery also representing St. Louis. The representatives expressed anger by the lack of recognition during the debate, in which they said they believed they have more at stake because they are female and can get pregnant.

Deihl said he was not available for comment.

During the chamber debate, many of the Democrats argued that this is a woman’s right issue, not an issue of religious liberty as argued by the Republicans.

Rep. Dave Schatz, R-Sullivan County, said he believes there are other options to providing birth control and said he is worried about the cost of providing contraception.

“It would cost nothing to anyone if we decided to use abstinence as birth control,” Schatz said. “Abstinence is free.”

Rep. Judy Morgan, D-Kansas City, responded by saying that abstinence is unrealistic. She said that many people do not choose abstinence if they are married or in a relationship. She also said that she believes many Catholics do not agree with the church on the issue of contraception.

Republican representatives, such as Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, said they believe the president’s bill would allow unwarranted government intervention into individual decisions.

“Can government compel us to do exactly what it wants us to do in every situation regardless of whether we have deeply held religious beliefs or not?” Barnes asked his fellow legislators.

Rep. Mike Talboy, D-Kansas City, said that he believes religion and government cannot always be separated.

“Lets face it…religion invited government all the way in when it benefits them with dollars,” Talboy said.

Republicans eventually shut down debate over the resolution, stonewalling their Democratic counterparts from further discussing the issue.

The resolution was voted on and adopted by a 114-45 vote. While only one Republican voted in opposition, 12 Democrats joined the other side in favor of the resolution.

At the news conference directly following the debate, the seven said the lack of acknowledgment during the debate was “disrespectful, despicable and a blatant disregard” to women.

They said that this issue is unique to women, and that Republicans should end this “anti-woman agenda.”

“We will not be silenced again, I assure you,” Rep. Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis County, said.

Women in the group said they will continue to stand and demand recognition on the chamber floor until they are recognized.

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