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District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NADLER. I thank the gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in opposition to the D.C. Abortion Ban Act.

This legislation is a flagrantly unconstitutional attack on the right of women to make the most fundamental decisions about their lives and their health. It is based on radical ideology rather than on long-established Supreme Court precedent or on sound science, and it is yet another attack on the right to self-government of the Americans who live, work, and pay taxes in our Nation's Capital. It is, in short, yet another example of the Republican war on women and of their fundamental hostility to democracy when the voters have the audacity to disagree with Republican orthodox.

And why are we here today, playing abortion politics with a bill everyone knows will not pass the Senate, when millions of Americans are out of a job and the Republican majority can't find a moment to consider a single one of the President's jobs bills?

The constitutional rule is clear: The government may not tell a woman whether or not she may have an abortion before fetal viability. This bill prohibits abortions much earlier. This bill does not even have an exception to protect women's health, another constitutional violation.

We don't have to guess how this kind of extreme legislation plays out. We know from States which have enacted similar laws. Take the case of Danielle Deaver, a Nebraska woman who was 22 weeks pregnant when her water broke. Doctors informed her that her fetus would likely be born with undeveloped lungs and not be able to survive outside the womb because all the amniotic fluid had drained, the tiny growing fetus slowly would be crushed by the uterus walls.

During her pregnancy, Nebraska enacted a law similar to this bill. As a result, Ms. Deaver could not obtain an abortion. Thus, despite serious complications and enduring infections, Danielle had to continue her pregnancy. On December 8, 2010, Danielle delivered a 1 pound, 10 ounce child who survived only 15 minutes outside the womb.

The question of fetal pain is a difficult one, but Members need to understand that the argument being made by the proponents of this bill, that a 20-week fetus can feel pain, is a fringe one denied by the bulk of the scientific community. Scientists will continue to debate and study, but we should not write marginal views into the criminal code.

We also need to remember that this bill targets only the District of Columbia, which some on the other side of the aisle like to treat like a colony. It is outrageous that we would be considering a bill that Members are clearly not willing to apply to their own constituents.

Mr. Speaker, it is time that the Republican leadership stop diverting the attention of this House from the business of putting people back to work by bringing up one divisive, unconstitutional bill after another.

I urge my colleagues to reject this cynical, dangerous, misogynist, and unconstitutional legislation.


Mr. NADLER. Mr. Speaker, this legislation is obnoxious for three reasons:

Number one, it picks on the District of Columbia because we can, because they are defenseless. We wouldn't do this to any State.

Number two, it is a direct contradiction of Roe v. Wade, which says you cannot ban an abortion before viability. And one ignorant judge in Arizona, one far-right judge in Arizona who says that a ban is not a ban, it's only a limitation as long as there's an exemption for the risk of life to the mother, doesn't change the meaning of the English language nor the meaning of the Supreme Court.

And three, it's obnoxious because it says to a woman whose health, whose future fertility, whose health is threatened, we judge that your health is less important than that pregnancy. It's not your decision; it's our decision because we're a bunch of arrogant politicians and you're only a woman who's pregnant, and to heck with you. That's why it's obnoxious.


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