Forward Thinking

Lawmaker Rebuked after Invoking Genitals and Judaism

By Larry Cohler-Esses

  • Print
  • Share Share

Democratic State Rep. Lisa Brown won some local notoriety, and a temporary speaking ban from the Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives for invoking “my vagina” during a passionate floor speech in defense of abortion rights Wednesday.

But for all the notice it garnered, Brown’s bodily personalization of the issue was just part of her broader religious personalization of the issue. Brown, who represents the heavily Jewish West Bloomfield area outside of Detroit, took to the statehouse podium to oppose a series of bills that would, via regulation, make abortion much harder to obtain. Her gasp-inducing reference to her genitals came at the tail end of a dramatic thumbnail rendition of her life as a practicing Jew.

“Yesterday we heard the representative from Holland [Mich.] speak about religious freedom,” Brown told her fellow lawmakers. Putting her right hand on her chest, she declared, “I’m Jewish. I keep kosher in my home. I have two sets of dishes—one for meat and one for dairy, and another two sets of dishes on top of that, for Passover.”

With a slight tremble in her voice, Brown lectured: “Judaism believes that therapeutic abortions, namely abortions performed in order to preserve the life of the mother are not only permissible, but mandatory. The stage of pregnancy does not matter. Wherever there’s a question of the life of the mother or that of the unborn child, Jewish law rules in favor 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 adopt and adhere to my religious beliefs,” Brown said. “Why are you asking me to adopt yours? Mr. Speaker, I’m flattered that you’re all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means no!”

Ari Adler, a spokesman for the Republican majority, announced Thursday morning that Brown would be banned from speaking from the House floor that day for failing “to maintain the decorum of the House of Representatives.”

An unbowed Brown shot back, “If I can’t say the word ‘vagina,’ why are we legislating vaginas? What language should I use?….We’re all adults here.”

Speaking at a hastily convened press conference, Brown noted that “vagina” is the “medically correct term.”

Michigan-based Debbie Schlussel, a right-wing blogger who opines often on Jewish topics, condemned the 45-year-old Brown as a “biotch.” Schlussel wrote that Brown “had the indecency to cite Jewish law on abortion and talk about how she keeps kosher. Um, Lisa, do NOT use Judaism to justify your pro-abortion conniptions and far left bulldung.”

In 1990 Schlussel narrowly lost a race for the same district house seat that Brown first won in 2008.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Lisa Brown, Jewish Law, Debbie Schlussel, Abortion

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Can animals suffer from PTSD?
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.