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A state lawmaker who says she was barred from speaking in the Michigan House because Republicans objected to her saying "vagina" during debate over anti-abortion legislation performed "The Vagina Monologues" on the Statehouse steps — with a hand from the author.
Eve Ensler, whose groundbreaking play about women's sexuality still packs theaters 16 years after it debuted, oversaw Monday night's performance by Democratic state Rep. Lisa Brown, 10 other lawmakers and several actresses.
Capitol facilities director Steve Benkovsky estimated about 2,500 spectators — women and men — watched the play in downtown Lansing from lawn chairs and blankets. Billed on Facebook as the "Vaginas Take Back the Capitol!" event, the combination play and protest included political signs and chants of "Vagina! Vagina!"
Ensler, who flew in from California, where she's overseeing production of her new play, said she was thrilled to be involved and likened the punishment meted out by the Republican leadership of the state House to "the Dark Ages."
"If we ever knew deep in our hearts that the issue about abortion ... was not really about fetuses and babies, but really men's terror of women's sexuality and power, I think it's fully evidenced here," Ensler told The Associated Press by phone Monday before arriving in Lansing.
"We're talking about the silencing of women, we're talking about censoring people for saying a body part," she said. "Half of these people who are trying to regulate vaginas, they can't even say the word."
Brown made her comments during debate last week on legislation that supporters say would make abortions safer but that opponents say would make it much harder for women to get abortions. While speaking against a bill that would require doctors to ensure abortion-seekers haven't been coerced into ending their pregnancies, Brown told Republicans, "I'm flattered you're all so concerned about my vagina. But no means no."
Brown was barred from speaking in the House during the next day's session. House Republicans say they didn't object to her saying "vagina." They said Brown compared the legislation to rape, violating House decorum. She denies the allegation.