A Republican New Hampshire lawmaker referred to women as "vaginas" in an email to colleagues on the official legislative electronic mailing list earlier this month, drawing outrage from his own party.
State Rep. Peter Hansen (R) made the comment, first reported by New Hampshire political blogger Susan the Bruce, in an April 1 email debate with colleagues about a "stand your ground" gun bill. Hansen's colleague, Rep. Steve Vaillancourt (R) had delivered a lengthy floor speech about the benefits of retreating instead of using deadly force, to which Hansen replied in an email:
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. 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.
State Rep. Rick Watrous (D) immediately criticized Hansen for his choice of words. "Are you really using 'vaginas' as a crude catch-all for women? Really?" he wrote. "Please think before you send out such offensive language on the legislative listserve [SIC]."
State Republican chair Jennifer Horn denounced Hansen's comments as "disrespectful and shameful."
"Representative Hansen's comments are crude, offensive and have no place in public discourse," Horn said in a statement Tuesday. "There is no excuse for anybody to use such disrespectful language -- especially an elected official. I strongly condemn his disrespectful and shameful remarks."
Hansen's comments are particularly bold in New Hampshire, the only state with a female governor and an all-female delegation to Congress. The speaker of the state House and the chief justice of the state Supreme Court also are both women.
Hansen initially did not back down. But on Tuesday, he claimed his comments were misinterpreted and he apologized "to those who took offense."
"Can there be any doubt my comment is being misinterpreted and taken completely out of context?" Hansen said in a statement. "It was not, and is not, my intention to demean women at any time. It is apparent that the intent of my remarks has been misinterpreted, the true goal of the message lost and for that I apologize to those who took offense."
His initial response to the controversy was different. "Having a fairly well educated mind I do not need self appointed wardens to A: try to put words in my mouth for political gain and B: Turn a well founded strategy in communication into an insulting accusation, and finally if you find the noun vagina insulting or in some way offensive then perhaps a better exercise might be for you to re-examine your psyche," Hansen wrote.
NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire condemned Hansen on Tuesday and vowed to make sure voters learn about his slur. "We are shocked and disgusted by this derogatory comment," the group said in a statement. "Women are more than their reproductive organs. We are daughters, sisters, mothers, students, professionals, and community leaders. We deserve more than being referenced by our body parts.”
Harrell Kirstein, a spokesman for the New Hampshire Democrats, called Hansen's comment "shockingly inappropriate" and "disgusting behavior" and said it reflects Republicans' stances on birth control, abortion and equal pay.
"New Hampshire Republicans continue to make clear that they do not value women as equals," Kirstein told HuffPost in a statement. "They refuse to support equal pay for equal work legislation, have routinely attacked access to critical health services for women, and now State House emails reveal how their legislators in Concord really view half of New Hampshire's population."
This article has been updated with comments from Hansen, Jennifer Horn and Harrell Kirstein.