Thousands of people gathered on the state Capitol lawn in Lansing Monday evening, to protest the treatment of two female lawmakers who were barred from speaking on the House floor last Thursday following an emotional debate over abortion.
They heard a recitation by the two lawmakers and others of The Vagina Monologues.
The performance, kicked off by the work’s author Eve Ensler who flew in from California for the occasion, was the culmination of five days of reaction to the decision by House Republican leaders to issue one-day revocations of the right of state Reps. Lisa Brown, D-West Bloomfield, and Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga , to speak on the House floor.
They said the discipline was in response to "incivility" displayed by the two representatives a day earlier during a debate over legislation to impose new restrictions on abortion clinics. Brown said she was punished for using the word vagina.
Welcoming the crowd, Brown said the legislation would “effectively overturn Roe v. Wade,” the 1972 U.S. Supreme Court decision which ended most state-level restrictions on abortion, and “turn back the clock to the 60s, when women were denied health care.”
Concluding her remarks during the House debate, Brown had said, “I’m flattered that you are all so interested in my vagina, but ‘no’ means ‘no.’”
Monday evening she said, “We shouldn’t be legislating vaginas, if you can’t say vagina.”
The play is a series of graphic tales - some funny, some violent - about vaginas. The author, Eve Ensler, said the protest setting at the capitol was a first for her show in its 16th year.
"This is a turning point moment," Ensler said. "This is a moment where we can turn this whole war on women in a whole other direction. And it's really important that we have her back and that we support her. And we let the world know this isn't going to be tolerated."
That's why thousands of Brown's supporters, young and old, attended the event. They wanted to make sure the next generation has a voice.
"She's going to change the world, and we gotta start somewhere," said Molly Kozlowski referring to her 2-year-old, who wore a "Viva Vagina" shirt and rainbow tutu. "She's going to be a strong, independent woman, and we're going to start here."
Women weren't the only ones speaking out about vaginas. There were plenty of men in the crowd supporting Representative Brown as well.
"We need to be honest talking about women's health issues, that it's not a dirty word," David Widmayer said. "This is not someone making a scene, this is how you have to talk about it if you're honestly going to talk about women's health in the legislature."
Ensler called on all women to participate in “One billion Rising,” on Feb. 14, 2013. On that day, she urged women to leave their jobs and their schools and go to the streets to dance.
“I want you to take over this place,” Ensler said. “I want you to dance for vaginas and life.”