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Public Statements

Women of the District of Columbia are Not Pawns

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, American women have been outraged by Republican attacks on reproductive health this term. We saw it in the decision that was later reversed by the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure when it initially pulled funding for Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings, and we saw it again in Republican attempts to defund Planned Parenthood, and then again to block access to contraceptives as part of health insurance.

More seriously, beneath the radar, there has been a far-right campaign, as announced by anti-choice forces, that will emerge in the markup of H.R. 3803, a frontal attack on abortion rights as guaranteed by Roe v. Wade. Representative Trent Franks, the sponsor of H.R. 3803, and anti-choice forces have unleashed a full-fledged attack on Roe and the Nation's women, using women in the Nation's Capital as pawns.

The District of Columbia Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill without any scientific basis, seeks to ban all abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy, with very limited exceptions. However, Roe v. Wade requires viability to be determined only by a physician and not by statute. Although the bill is nominally addressed only to women in the District of Columbia, it seeks to rally the most extreme Republicans by achieving a Federal imprimatur, however bogus or limited, for use in an ongoing campaign across the Nation to get States to defy the law of the land under Roe v. Wade. Several conservative States have already passed similar laws, but neither Congressional Republicans nor anti-choice organizations has the nerve to proceed in the usual way with a post-20-week abortion ban bill for the Nation because they know that women and their supporters would angrily turn back such an attack on Roe v. Wade.

The full and equal American citizens who live in the Nation's Capital, pay Federal taxes, and go to war demand to have their laws respected--especially by unaccountable Members of Congress. By moving the post-20-week abortion ban only in conservative States and targeting the District, which has no vote on such a bill on this floor, even though it affects only our residents, Republicans show they lack the courage of their own convictions and the courage to make this bill apply nationally, even in a Republican-controlled House where they would surely win. They target the District of Columbia women because they fear the wrath of the Nation's women that a nationwide bill would surely bring.

Well, we will not stand by as Republicans, who claim to favor small and local government, attempt to pass legislation affecting my constituents but not theirs in an act of disdain for the Federalist principles they profess.

Fortunately, the scheduled markup of the bill has helped us and pro-choice organizations to alert women across the United States that the D.C. label on this bill is a cover for a bill that seeks to undermine the reproductive rights of women across the United States.

Women have been watching closely ever since the first attacks on reproductive health in the House this term. With the post-20-week D.C. abortion bill, Republicans have left no doubt that the reproductive freedom of America's women depends upon a Democratic Congress and a Democratic President.

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