WASHINGTON, D.C., February 17, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Although two pro-life women testified before a Congressional panel investigating whether the Obama administration had crossed a dangerous line violating the freedom of religion with its birth control mandate, the president of Planned Parenthood led a chorus of pro-abortion activists in asking, “Where are the women?”

On Thursday, the House Oversight Committee chaired by Congressman Darrell Issa called the two women, who work for Christian universities, before a hearing titled, “Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?” 

Dr. Allison Dabbs Garrett, the senior vice president for academic affairs at Oklahoma Christian University, and Dr. Laura Champion, the medical director at Calvin College Health Services, were two of ten witnesses who said the government mandate requiring religious institutions such as theirs to provide contraception, sterilization, and abortifacient drugs violated the First Amendment.

However, Cecile Richards, the president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, released a statement the same morning asking, “How can Congress hold a hearing about birth control and not let any women speak?”

She accused Issa of “holding a congressional hearing to oppose insurance coverage for contraception, yet not allowing a single woman to testify in support of the benefit.”

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The two women testified as part of the second panel. The first panel included five men: a Catholic bishop, the president of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, two Southern Baptists, and a rabbi.

Cecile Richards sent out a picture of the first panel as part of a fundraising e-mail Thursday afternoon. “This picture is spreading around the internet like wildfire right now because of what’s missing. WOMEN.” she wrote. “The anti-birth control lawmakers who want to give employers the power to deny women coverage for contraception don’t want to hear from women or from anyone who disagrees with them.” 

Nancy Keenan, the president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, followed suit, telling her followers in an e-mail message, “Unbelievably, the head of the committee, anti-choice Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), refused to allow a female law student to testify in support of contraceptive coverage.” However, she implicitly acknowledged a female presence in the hearings. “The hearing featured 10 anti-choice witnesses – eight of whom were men,” she wrote.

George Zornick of The Nation invoked the days of segregation in his article, “Republican Hearing on Contraception: No Women Allowed.”

The row over representation began during the hearing itself. “I look at this panel, and I don’t 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,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, D-NY. “Where are the women?”

Maloney later pioneered the #“wherearethewomen hashtag on Twitter.

Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi revived the issue during a press conference later in the day. “Imagine they’re having a panel on women’s health, and they don’t have any women on the panel – duh! “ she said. “What is it that men don’t understand about women’s health and how central the issue of family planning is to that?”

The hearings, which were marked by contention – including Eleanor Holmes Norton walking out and Rep. Gerry Connolly accusing testifying clergy of “trampling” on freedom – produced their lighter moments. After Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-NY, said he would feel more comfortable with women on the panel, Congressman Issa responded, “I might want to note Rev. Barry Lynn is not a woman. That’s who you requested.”

Under rules established before Republicans regained control of the House, the minority party gets to choose one witness per hearing. The committee’s Democratic members originally chose Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

The minority then changed its mind and asked for Sandra Fluke, a Georgetown Law student who was once president of its Students for Reproductive Justice chapter. She was expected to testify about a fellow student who was reportedly unable to afford the birth control pills that her doctor was prescribing to treat ovarian cysts.

Since the hearings were about religious freedom rather than birth control, Congressman Issa said Fluke would be an inappropriate witness. However, his office contacted Lynn, who declined to attend, saying he did not find the call very “serious.” 

A committee spokeswoman defended the hearing’s inclusion of women against misrepresentations, saying, “Rep. Pelosi is either ill informed or arrogantly dismissive of women who don’t share her views.”