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Reproductive Health for Women of the District of Columbia

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Ms. NORTON. Mr. Speaker, sometimes schoolyard bullies pick on the wrong kid. Anti-choice forces thought they had found a cheap way to make a large point against the right of women in our country to reproductive health and choice by picking on the District of Columbia. Pick a fight with the District of Columbia--after all, the District of Columbia doesn't have a vote even if the bill is about only the District of Columbia. But in the process, they picked a fight with the women of the United States because this is still a pro-choice Nation.

Now, they didn't want to get women worked up in an election year, but they wanted a Federal imprimatur, a Federal label, so they thought that they could get the House to pass the bill that's coming to the floor today on suspension that women in the District of Columbia are not entitled to an abortion after 20 weeks. Mind you, everywhere else in the United States that right still would exist.

And while they're at it, they say, let's penalize women by allowing an injunction against an abortion by these women by, any health care provider who has had anything to do with the woman any time in her life--I guess the elementary school nurse could come in to seek an injunction. And, of course, penalize doctors--2 years in jail and a fine are possible. No health exception for the woman no matter her health nor fetal abnormality, rape or incest exceptions.

One of my constituents, Professor Christy Zink, had an abortion at 21 weeks, the earliest time her physicians would discover that she was carrying a fetus with half a brain. Had it been born alive, it would have had constant seizures. She would have had to carry that fetus to term.

Sometimes, bullies pick the wrong fight. Anti-choice forces have threatened the leadership here, particularly Republicans, saying they are going to score the vote. All that did was to bring out the really big boys and girls--Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America--who are going to score the bill as well.

They've been too clever by two-thirds. It'll take two-thirds to pass this bill. I'm hoping they won't get that kind of supermajority.

This is not the typical anti-home-rule bill that holds everyone else harmless except for D.C. residents and the D.C. government. This bill is a key element in a State-by-State campaign that seeks first to undermine and then to eliminate reproductive choice and health care for women across the United States.

They've miscalculated. They have reinvigorated the pro-choice movement, just as they did when they infiltrated Susan G. Komen for the Cure and forced Komen, which later reversed itself to stop giving to Planned Parenthood, just as they did when they failed to defund Planned Parenthood, just as they did when they caused a furor by women with the attack on contraceptives in health insurance policies.

Now women see this fight against reproductive choice for what it is, because it has ended with the constitutional right to abortion. Anti-choice Republicans have abandoned their own principles. If they feel so deeply, how could they introduce a bill that would affect only women and only fetuses in the District of Columbia?

The Supreme Court decided 39 years ago that a woman is entitled to an abortion. That's a constitutional right. It's not a constitutional right everywhere except the Nation's Capital. The differences in our country on choice are great, but they are differences we all must respect. And the Supreme Court has settled those differences with Roe v. Wade, which says pre-viability, that is a decision between a woman and her doctor. After viability, of course, there are some things that can be done, but the health and life of the mother always have to be protected.

This bill stretches beyond penalties doctors in our country would receive, and penalties on women, and it is the kind of bill that sends a message to women: this is not a House that is protecting your reproductive health. If this bill passes, it will cause the kind of uproar that we have not seen in almost 40 years.

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