CALISTOGA SPRINGS, OHIO — At a city council meeting last week, Councilman Roger McMurtry told his fellow council members he nearly made a “grave mistake that would have had wide-reaching, negative effects.”
McMurtry, a lifelong Republican who has served on the Calistoga Springs City Council for twenty-two years has been working on zoning laws that would force his town’s lone abortion provider to close up shop and move to another city. The zoning laws would state that no health care facility that provides “sweet, sweet innocent baby murdering services” not be within 300 square miles of any other facility in the town that has women or children as its clientele. The town of Calistoga Springs is only ten miles in any direction, so the zoning laws would effectively bar abortion clinics from operating within the city limits.
During last week’s council meeting, McMurtry and his fellow council members, all male, were holding a public forum on the zoning laws. When a woman in her late 20’s got up to the microphone, McMurtry appeared bewildered, but pressed on. He asked for her name.
“Susan Southwick,” the woman said, “and I work at a law firm just outside town.”
Mr. McMurtry wrote Ms. Southwick’s name down. He looked up at her again and then told her that they were discussing his proposed zoning laws. Then he asked if she was there to comment on them.
“Yes, that’s exactly why I came down here,” Southwick said.
“Well then, the floor is yours,” McMurtry said, motioning Southwick to speak.
“Well,” Southwick opened, “as a woman I – ”
“Wait a good goshdarnedheck minute here,” McMurtry said, slamming his pen down on the table behind which he sat, “are you telling me you’re a female? Like as in…a woman?”
Southwick shook her head. She tried to continue, but McMurtry raised his hand. He pressed his finger to his lips.
“But, I just wanted to give my opinion on,” Ms. Southwick attempted to continue, and again McMurtry cut her off with a hand gesture. For a full two minutes, Southwick would attempt to speak, and McMurtry would silence her. Finally, the councilman took decisive action.
“CUT OFF HER MIC, RIGHT NOW,” McMurtry bellowed at the sound board operator in the room. The operator complied, and McMurtry had the security guard in the room escort Southwick outside, where she was summarily hoisted on her petard.
After letting the commotion die down in the room, McMurtry gestured toward the sound technician, and the microphone was turned back on. An older man gamboled up to it. He and McMurtry shared a look, the man used his thumb to point in the general direction of where Southwick had been forced out of the meeting, and then both men shared a good, hard, belly laugh.
“Oh my God,” Councilman McMurtry exclaimed, “I almost asked a woman for her opinion on women’s rights. It would’ve been a grave mistake that would have had wide-reaching, negative effects. Like…women having a say in stuff that concerns female reproductive rights. Yeesh.”
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