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Full-blown religious freedom, contraception fight enters Week Two

Two female members of Congress walked out of Thursday's House oversight committee hearing in protest. NBC's Kelly O'Donnell reports.

The whistle in the tea pot over the fight over religious freedom and birth control sounded last week. And today it continued into Week Two with jaw-dropping comments about aspirin between women’s legs as birth control by a prominent supporter of a Republican presidential candidate; a hearing on Capitol Hill, where a member walked out and another accused the committee chairman of wanting to go back to a "dark and primitive era"; and a bill in Virginia that all-but outlaws abortions.

“Back in my days they used Bayer aspirin for contraceptives,” said Foster Friess, the principal financial backer of a pro-Rick Santorum Super PAC, on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports earlier today. “They put it between their knees. The gals put it between their knees, and it wasn’t that costly."

At the Capitol Hill Oversight Committee hearing, entitled, "Lines Crossed: Separation of Church and State. Has the Obama Administration Trampled on Freedom of Religion and Freedom of Conscience?" chaired by Obama thorn Darrell Issa, R-Calif., a Democratic congresswoman walked out in protest over no women being included in a morning panel.

Another, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., asked, “Where are the women?” and chastised Issa for what she saw as him wanting to take the country back to a “dark and primitive era.”

Maloney briefly left the panel to attend to other business and later returned, but D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton walked out in protest over the lack of balance.

Democrats wanted a Georgetown law student, who takes birth control for an ovarian cyst, to testify, but Issa denied the request saying, she was ineligible because she goes to Georgetown, which is Catholic, and she’s not a member of the clergy. (Of course, women aren’t allowed in leadership positions in the Catholic Church.)

Women were included in an afternoon panel. But they weren’t exactly there for ideological balance -- not that it was entirely ideologically balanced under Democratic chairmanship. The witnesses were: Dr. Allison Dabbs Garrett of Oklahoma Christian University and Dr. Laura Champion of Calvin College Health Services in Michigan. The description of the school on Calvin College’s front page: “Loving God with heart, soul, mind and strength.” It’s a school “grounded in an unwavering Christian faith.”

Planned Parenthood had a field day with a photo from the morning session. Its Facebook page posting about it had 3,852 comments, 5,495 “likes”, and 9,454 shares, as of 3:30 p.m. ET.

In Virginia, Republicans have a super majority in the legislature and AP reported yesterday, it "has muscled two of the most restrictive anti-abortion bills in years through the Virginia House, including one that would all but outlaw the procedure in the state by declaring that the rights of persons apply from the moment sperm and egg unite. The bills passed over bitter yet futile objections from Democrats. And one GOP delegate caused the House to ripple when he said most abortions come as ‘matters of lifestyle convenience.'"

“Del. Bob Marshall's House Bill 1 on personhood at conception passed on a 66-32 vote. And on a 63-36 vote, the House passed a bill that requires women to have a ‘transvaginal ultrasound’ before undergoing abortions ... The bills now go to the Senate, which has passed Sen. Jill Vogel's companion to Del. Kathy Byron's ultrasound measure. There is no Senate mirror legislation to Marshall's personhood bill, which prescribes criminal penalties for those who would violate its provisions, but Sen. Bill Stanley, R-Franklin County, won passage Tuesday of a measure that would permit wrongful death civil lawsuits against those who kill a fetus.”