The XX Factor

Darrell Issa’s First Panel on Contraception Coverage Had Zero Female Witnesses

Democratic women.
Democratic senators Kristen Gillibrand (N.Y.), Patty Murray (Wash.), and Barbara Boxer (Calif.) during a news conference on contraceptive coverage

Alex Wong/Getty Images.

Considering how politically toxic it is for Republicans to continue in this foolhardy campaign against regulations requiring insurance companies to offer complete contraception coverage, you would think the smart move would be for Republicans to drop it. Instead, the strategy is to wage this battle while insisting against all common sense that it’s about “religious freedom,” even though the tweak to Obama’s original policy allowing insurers to cover women directly instead of going through their employers addressed that concern. Refusing to acknowledge that their stated concerns were addressed is simply revealing that the Republican war on contraception coverage is in fact a war on contraception itself, and no amount of hyperbole Rep. Darrell Issa uses in titling hearings can change that.


Issa’s hearing on allowing women whose employers refuse to cover birth control to get it anyway through their insurance companies was intended to reframe the issue as “religious freedom,” but his sexist behavior has caused that strategy to backfire. Of the five witnesses called to testify in the first round, all five were men who oppose contraception use. When Rep. Elijah Cummings asked Issa to include women as witnesses, the answer was basically a hell-no, with the implication that women’s voices are not necessary when discussing “religious freedom.” (The religious freedom of female workers to make their own contraception decisions is not included in the conservative definition of “religious freedom.”) Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Eleanor Holmes Norton walked out in protest. Think Progress has a marvelous picture of the panel of witnesses asked to testify about women’s access to contraception, a picture of five grumpy looking dudes.

The only question left: Is Darrell Issa a mole that’s secretly working for the Democrats? If you wanted to send the message that Republicans have a serious problem with female sexuality and independence and are willing to move heaven and earth to take away the rights of ordinary women, you couldn’t have concocted a better illustration than today’s hearings. 

Update: In a second panel Thursday afternoon, two women appeared as witnesses to testify against the coverage policy.