Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) met with the press outside the House Judiciary Committee hearing room following the committee's markup and passage of H.R. 3803, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill banning abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The Congresswoman expressed her gratitude to the Democrats on the Committee, all of whom opposed the bill, for leading a spirited defense of the women of the District and the nation. She was especially thankful for a Democratic amendment that tried to include protecting the mother's health as an exception, as required by Roe v. Wade. In particular, Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) exposed a new level of Republican extremism with his amendment to strike a provision in the bill that would allow any of the woman's health care providers, however remotely connected -- such as a school nurse from many years ago or a pediatrician from childhood -- to seek an injunction to stop the abortion. Norton also gave special thanks to Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who read from the dais the statement the Congresswoman submitted for the Subcommittee on the Constitution's hearing on the bill in May. Norton's request to testify at the subcommittee's hearing, as a matter of congressional courtesy, in addition to the invited witnesses, was denied.
"With anti-choice Republicans in control of the committee, the final vote was never in doubt," Norton said. "American women, whose reproductive health is threatened by the bill, and their physicians, who could be jailed up to two years and fined, began to get the word when the bill was introduced along with similar bills in many states throughout the country. A court challenge to Arizona's bill has already been filed, and we could not be more pleased that it has been brought in the home state of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks. There is little doubt about the outcome in court, considering that a post-20-week abortion bill is a frontal attack on Roe v. Wade. Franks' bill's disguise as a D.C. bill has long been put aside by the nation's women. They now see the bill as the final destination in a straight line of attacks this Congress on the reproductive rights of women, beginning with Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, the attempt to block access to contraceptives as a part of health insurance, and the Susan G. Komen for the Cure decision, forced by anti-choice groups, to stop funding Planned Parenthood breast cancer screenings, a decision that was later reversed. Anti-choice, far-right forces hope to use D.C. women as puppets in their effort to undermine Roe v. Wade by abusing federal authority over this city to get a phony federal imprimatur for their ongoing campaign to get similar bills passed in states across the nation. However, Republicans' ganging up on the District, instead of introducing a nationwide bill, was quickly seen for what it is: the use of the women of this city to target Roe v. Wade and the women whose reproductive health depends on the constitutionally guaranteed right to an abortion."
The Congresswoman expects H.R. 3803 to go to the House floor for a vote because the National Right to Life Committee has labeled the bill its number one legislative priority in the 112th Congress. Anti-choice, anti-home-rule forces should have enough votes to pass the bill in the House, and Norton is already working with her allies in the Senate to defeat it. Even if the bill is stopped in the Senate or the courts, Norton said making the fight in the House is important to let members of the House and Senate know that we will always fight back fiercely when members or groups attempt to discard local democratic control and use D.C. residents for their own purposes, as if our residents are not entitled to equal citizenship.