LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - A New Hampshire state representative apologized on Wednesday for using “vagina” as a synonym for “woman” in a mass email to lawmakers as part of a gun-law debate.
Representative Peter Hansen was responding to fellow Republican Representative Steve Vaillancourt, who had urged repeal of the state’s Stand Your Ground law. The 2011 law allows use of deadly force even if people could safely retreat from a threatening situation.
“What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT (Vermont), Germany and the bowels of Amsterdam,” Hansen wrote in an email to the 400-member House of Representatives in response to a speech by Vaillancourt.
“Why children and vagina’s (sic) 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.”
The April 1 email drew widespread condemnation from both Democrats and Republicans after it was republished on Monday on a state political blog called Susan the Bruce.
NARAL Pro-Choice New Hampshire, an abortion rights group, called on Hansen to resign. “New Hampshire citizens expect civil behavior from our elected officials and we will not tolerate behavior that serves only to degrade women,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
Jennifer Horn, chairman of the state Republican Party, said Hansen’s comments “are crude, offensive and have no place in public discourse.”
Hansen, who initially defended the email, issued a full apology on Wednesday.
“I want to apologize to my constituents, my colleagues and women, especially those in my life, for the blatantly offensive, insensitive and, frankly, stupid language I used in my email with House members regarding the Stand Your Ground legislation,” Hansen wrote in an emailed statement.
“I am embarrassed, to say the least. There is no place or need in the public discourse for the words I used. The people and the process deserve better than that.”
The Democrat-controlled House voted to repeal Stand Your Ground on March 27. The bill faces an uncertain future in the state’s Republican-controlled Senate.
Hansen’s comments especially stand out in New Hampshire, which has a female governor and an all-female delegation to Congress. The House speaker and chief justice of the Supreme Court are also women.
“It just seemed outrageous because it was going out to all 400 representatives,” said Democratic Representative Rick Watrous. “Usually we use the term ‘women’ when we’re talking about women.”
Reporting by Jason McLure; Editing by Ian Simpson, Greg McCune and Steve Orlofsky