A powerful Democratic women’s rights group has launched an advertising blitz attacking Republicans for not including women witnesses at a congressional hearing about an Obama administration contraception mandate and religious freedom.
The television ad spot — produced by EMILY’s List — will be broadcast to viewers in Chicago, San Francisco, and Florida and takes aim at a hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week in which female Democrats on the panel staged a walkout after few women were allowed to testify in support of the White House’s contraception mandate.
The debate centers around a ruling that employers, including Catholic schools and universities, provide or pay for birth control for their employees. Obama revised that policy last week, in the wake of a backlash from church officials and Republican lawmakers, to allow workers to get contraception through their insurance company.
Last week’s hearing was entitled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” Republicans have painted the Obama mandate as an attack on religious liberties and had invited religious leaders opposed to the mandate to testify.
The Democratic women on the panel walked out of the hearing after Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) refused to allow testimony from Sandra Flake, a Georgetown University law student who supports the policy.
“Imagine, they’re having a panel on women’s health, and they don’t have any women on the panel — duh!” Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a press briefing in the Capitol. “What is it that men don’t understand about women’s health and how central the issue of family planning is to that?”
Rep. Issa’s office shot back against Pelosi’s criticism, noting that two women testified on the second panel and saying Pelosi “is either ill-informed or arrogantly dismissive of women who don’t share her views.”
"Women are saying, ‘Enough,’" said Stephanie Schriock, EMILY's List president. “That picture told women everything they need to know about the radical, right-wing anti-women conservatives in Washington who are using their power to set women back decades.”
The EMILY's LIST ad opens with controversial remarks from Foster Friess, a major donor to a super-PAC supporting Rick Santorum who has hammered the contraceptive ruling as an Obama administration "attack" on religion.
The ad opens with footage showing Friess saying: “You know, back in my days, they used Bayer aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly.”
"We heard them, talking about women's lives," a narrator says before a montage of clips depicting male members of the media discussing women's issues along with images of Republican lawmakers, and the all-male panel from last week's hearing.
The video then cuts to an image of New York Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D) asking "Where are the women?" at the hearing.
"So who should be heard?" the narrator resumes. "You."
The protest by Democratic lawmakers and their allies underscores the difficulty Republicans are having in framing the issue as a fight over religious freedom. Democrats want to make it a debate over contraception and women’s health, a shift that could help the party win over female voters in an election year.
On Sunday, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was asked whether the all-male panel for the House hearing would hurt the GOP in the 2012 elections.
“There is no anti-women move whatsoever,” said Bachmann. “The Republican Party is extremely pro-women.
“The president of the United States has unprecedented breathtaking authority to make a decision about whatever healthcare service, whatever healthcare product, if he wants it offered or not offered, will it be free? He'll set the prices,” she said.
“This is unprecedented. That's why President Obama's Achilles heel is ‘Obama-care.’”
This story was updated at 6:28 p.m.