Sunday, February 25, 2018
Opinion

The word we dare not speak

Last week, a Michigan state legislator was barred from speaking on the House floor because she used the word vagina in a statement about proposed abortion regulations in what is arguably the most restrictive bill yet proposed to curb reproductive freedom.

Michigan state Republicans who rescinded her speaking privileges for a day variously expressed offense at Democrat Rep. Lisa Brown's use of the word vagina or the context in which she used the word vagina or her use of the phrase "no means no" in describing a 50-page proposed bill that contains the word vagina three times.

Republican Rep. Mike Callton noted later that Brown's comment "was so offensive, I don't even want to say it in front of women. I would not say that in mixed company."

The scourge of women being allowed to speak the word vagina in a legislative debate must be stopped. And if women are not capable of regulating their own word choice, the state should regulate it for them. To that end, we propose that the Michigan House promptly enact HB-5711(b) — a bill to regulate the use of the word vagina by females in mixed company.

The bill will include Part A(1)(a) providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will.

Section B(1)(d) provides that prior to allowing a female to say the word vagina a woman will have a mandatory visit with her physician at which he will read to her a scripted warning detailing the scientific evidence of the well-documented medical dangers inherent in saying the word vagina out loud, including the link between saying the word vagina and the risk of contracting breast cancer.

Because some women who say the word vagina in legislative proceedings occasionally come to regret having used the word, Part C(7) provides that there will also be mandatory counseling with counselors who have never used the word vagina in their lifetimes, and who would indeed die before they ever used such a word.

Moreover the state health code is to be amended such that no woman who says the word vagina may do so out loud or in mixed company until and unless she is in a facility with full surgical capabilities. Objections that speech is not in fact a surgical procedure notwithstanding, it's clear that the risk of saying the word vagina out loud is such that it should not be undertaken without proper medical safeguards to guarantee against any and all risks of negative consequences.

Also, provision d(9)(a) of the bill would amend the current law to ensure that if any listener who hears the word vagina spoken aloud — although it may be the medically correct term for a woman's reproductive organs — feels any religious objections to such speech, that speech may be curtailed in the interest of preserving the listener's religious freedom as detailed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Any other marginally relevant provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution are herein rescinded as needed.

Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate.

© 2012 Slate

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