Today, Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, denounced the newest effort by House Republicans to curtail women's access to reproductive rights. Speaking at a Constitution Subcommittee hearing on H.R. 3803, Nadler lamented the never-ending parade of bills attacking women and seeking to roll back hard-won freedoms. He also criticized Judiciary Republicans for failing to allow Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) to testify on a bill which specifically targets her congressional district. The majority party's move to deny a House colleague the opportunity to testify is in direct contrast to the previous policy under a Democratic majority.
"In this case, my colleagues appear, through the operation of the Criminal Code, to be trying to settle a scientific question on which there is no consensus within the field," said Nadler. "That is an exercise of raw political power, not of dispassionate fact finding .The fact that the majority has allowed three individuals to purport to present as clearly established science views that are clearly a marginal view, will create a false and misleading record. The fact that the minority has been limited to one witness only demonstrates just what a farce these hearings are."
Below is the text of Nadler's opening statement, as prepared:
"We're back again considering legislation that would curtail women's reproductive rights. I understand how personally important this is to some of my colleagues, and they are certainly entitled to their beliefs, but the many Americans who see the world very differently, including millions of women who value their personal autonomy, can be forgiven if this looks like just another battle in the Republican War on Women.
"I accept that, on this one, we are going to have to agree to disagree.
"In this case, my colleagues appear, through the operation of the Criminal Code, to be trying to settle a scientific question on which there is no consensus within the field. That is an exercise of raw political power, not of dispassionate fact finding. Some of the views we are going to hear today are in fact viewed by many in the field as outliers, not mainstream scientific thought.
"The fact that the majority has allowed three individuals to purport to present as clearly established science views that are clearly a marginal view, will create a false and misleading record. The fact that the minority has been limited to one witness only demonstrates just what a farce these hearings are.
"Yes, I know, we could have invited our own medical expert, but at the expense of hearing from an actual woman who can provide a real-world look at the impact this legislation will have on real families. I know, we could have invited the Delegate from the District of Columbia, the only member of this body elected to represent the only Americans who would be affected by this bill, but that would have to be at the expense of hearing either from a real person or from a medical expert with more mainstream views.
"The exclusion of Delegate Norton, who is relegated to sitting in the audience today -- and I want to welcome her and apologize for the rudeness the Republican majority has show a colleague by refusing to allow her to be heard -- is yet another example of that abuse of power.
"Yes, the Constitution gives Congress plenary power over the District -- something that we can and should remedy, but have not to our everlasting shame -- but just because you have the power to impose your will on people who have no voice does not make it right or moral.
"As I have said in the past, never in my 20 years as a member of this body have I seen a colleague treated so contemptuously. The Gentlewoman from the District of Columbia is a member of this body, and the people she represents are taxpaying American citizens, who serve in our military, respond when one of us has an emergency requiring police, fire, or EMT services, and serve as congressional staff without whom we could not do our work. And yet, this Committee can't be bothered to take five minutes to hear our colleague who will not even be permitted to vote on this bill. The District of Columbia is not a colony, it is part of the United States, and its people are entitled to be treated with the same respect that we demand for the people we represent.
"I ask unanimous consent to place the Gentlewoman's statement in the record.
"I am not going to sit here and debate the question of fetal pain, except to note that even Dr. Anand, who is cited in the majority's witness testimony and hearing memo, and who was called by the majority to testify before this Subcommittee in 2005, told us,
I think the evidence for and against fetal pain is very uncertain at the present time . . . . there is consensus in the medical and scientific research community that there is . . . no possibility of pain of pain perception in the first trimester. There is uncertainty in the second trimester.
"The Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that "[e]vidence regarding the capacity for fetal pain is limited but indicates that fetal perception of pain is unlikely before the third trimester.'
"The Royal Academy of Obstetricians and Gynecologists concluded, "it can be concluded that the fetus cannot experience pain in any sense prior to [24 weeks gestation].'
"Are we really going to take sides in this scientific debate by jailing and bankrupting people who don't agree? Because that is what this bill will do.
"Similarly, the claim that an abortion is never necessary to protect a woman's health is simply not one that is widely held in the profession, and the idea that we should be enshrining these marginal views into the Criminal Code defies reason.
"There are many difficult issues that we should deal with, and deal with in a more serious and exhaustive manner, but I guess if you've got the votes, and the Constitution gives you imperial powers, what the heck, right?
"I find it deeply disturbing that, when it comes to issues like this, some people think there is nothing wrong with making families in crisis have the courage of legislators' convictions. That is just wrong."