Foster Friess, the billionaire backer of Rick Santorum’s campaign, stunned MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday when he said, “Back in my day, they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly.”
Mitchell responded: “Excuse me, I’m just trying to catch my breath from that, Mr. Friess, frankly.”
Friess later apologized, claiming it was a “joke.”
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said today: “If it was a joke, it was an insulting joke to women. If he was being real, that is frightening.”
She told MSNBC, “As we watch what is happening here on Capitol Hill from a panel of men talking about health care choices for women and the comment on your show yesterday about using aspirin between your knees for contraception, I feel like I’m waking up on a set of the “Mad Men.”
She was referring GOP Rep. Darryl Issa’s hearings on birth control yesterday, where the first five witnesses were all men, including Lutheran and Baptist clergymen, an Orthodox rabbi and a Roman Catholic bishop. Issa refused to let Democrats call any witnesses.
At religiondispatches.org, Sarah Posner reports that Democratic Repss Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia and Carolyn Maloney of New York walked out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing, titled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State: Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?“
Posner reports, “All of Issa’s witnesses are opposed to the contraception coverage requirement and are testifying about Issa’s framing of the hearing: that it’s about religious freedom, not health care.”
Maloney said, “What I want to know is, where are the women? I look at this panel, and I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventive health care services, including family planning. Where are the women?”
The committee did have two women testify, both opposed to the Obama administration’s policy.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., the ranking Democratic member of the committee and the son of two Pentecostal ministers, accused Issa of “promoting a conspiracy theory that the federal government is conducting a ‘war’ on religion.” Cummings added, “The pill has had a profound impact on [women’s] well being, far more than any man in this room could know.”
One of the witnesses Issa refused to allow the Democrats to call was Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University, a prominent Catholic institution.
Fluke said she would have testified about Georgetown students who are denied birth control coverage, including a woman who lost an ovary because she was denied coverage for a pill needed not for contraception but for medical purposes, Posner reports. As a result the woman, now 32 years old, is experiencing early menopause, threatening her ability to have children.
Issa claimed Fluke was “not qualified” to testify. Fluke commented, “Women impacted by the [policy] are the most qualified to speak.” Those voices, she said, “were silenced today.”
Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va., told Issa’s approved witnesses that they were being “used for a political agenda” directed against President Obama. “Today’s hearing is a sham, a shameful exercise,” Connolly said.
Photo: All-male show: From left, Rev. William E. Lori, Roman Catholic Bishop of Bridgeport, Conn., Reverend Dr. Matthew C. Harrison, president, The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, C. Ben Mitchell, Graves Professor of Moral Philosophy at Union University, Rabbi Meir Soloveichik, director Straus Center of Torah and Western Thought, Yeshiva University, and Craig Mitchell, associate professor of ethics of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, testify on before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Feb. 16 in Washington, D.C. (AP/Carolyn Kaster)