N.H. Rep’s Comments Draw Criticism
Concord — A state representative said he was just trying to emphasize a point when he used “vagina” as a synonym for “woman” in an email to the full House earlier this month.
Rep. Peter Hansen, an Amherst Republican serving his second term, wrote in an April 1 email to the all-House email list that “children and vagina’s” were missing from a fellow representative’s anecdotes during the debate over whether to repeal New Hampshire’s 2011 “stand your ground” law.
The email was posted Monday on a liberal blog, and Hansen’s remark was condemned yesterday by NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire.
“We are shocked and disgusted by this derogatory comment,” said Policy and Community Relations Director Sara Persechino in a news release. “Rep. Peter Hansen was elected to represent the citizens of his district and this state; referring to women as ‘vaginas’ is not in line with New Hampshire’s value of equality for all.”
Hansen said yesterday his comment was being taken out of context.
He said he had been responding to Rep. Steve Vaillancourt, a Manchester Republican who supported the bill to repeal the stand your ground self-defense law enacted in 2011. Hansen opposed the bill, which passed the Democratic-led House on a 189-184 vote March 27 and is now awaiting action by the Republican-led Senate.
During his floor speech on the bill, Vaillancourt gave several examples of situations where he had not needed such a law to protect himself. Hansen said he was arguing in his email that the situations could have been different had a woman with children, and not a man, been in danger.
“What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course,” Hansen wrote in the April 1 email. “While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims.”
Hansen said he used the word “vagina” to make a point.
“I used it for, number one, as a factor for shock, and I used that word to bring people into the mindset of a perpetrator” —that is, “of a potential rapist,” he said.
Hansen added, “I only regret my word choice because, one, it is misconstrued and, two, not as effective as I wish it had been.”
Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, a Penacook Democrat, said Hansen’s email was inappropriate.
“The comment was inappropriate, and I can see where people would take offense by it. It was offensive,” Shurtleff said.
Minority Leader Gene Chandler, a Bartlett Republican, demanded that Hansen apologize.
“These comments are repugnant and unbecoming of an elected official. They have no place in public discourse,” Chandler said in a statement. “Rep. Hansen’s comments in no way reflect the opinions of House Republicans or the Republican Party. Rep. Hansen should apologize immediately.”