Issa Challenges Dems to 'Restore Civility' in Contraception Debate

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter to the panel's Democrats today, telling them that they need to contribute to a greater level of civility in the HHS contraception mandate.

Sandra Fluke, a third-year Georgetown Law student, appeared before the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Feb. 16 after Democrats complained that no women testified at an Oversight hearing on the mandate (Issa reminded the panel's minority members that they walked out before Dr. Laura Champion and Dr. Allison Garrett testified).

Radio-show host Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" over Fluke's support of copayment-free birth control. Oversight Committee Democrats, led by Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), wrote Issa on Thursday asking that the chairman "strongly condemn" Limbaugh's statements.

"As the Chairman of the Committee that first attempted to silence Ms. Fluke and prevent her from testifying, you are in a unique position to speak out now on her behalf and to join us in condemning, in the strongest possible terms, this very public and very malicious attack on all women who share her views," the Democrats wrote.

Issa fired back with a two-page letter today noting that Democrats have appeared "outright giddy in attempting to distort the testimony offered and the purpose of the hearing."

But the main purpose of his response was to issue a challenge to the panel's Democrats.

"While your letter raises important concerns about these inappropriate comments and the tone of the current debate over religious freedom and Obamacare, I am struck by your clear failure to recognize your own contributions to the denigration of this discussion and attacks on people of religious faith," Issa wrote. "To help restore the civility of this discussion, I propose that you join me in a broader condemnation of the attacks on people of faith, the false and incendiary claims made about this Committee's efforts to examine the threat to religious freedom, and the regrettable personal attacks that have come from individuals on both sides of the issue."