ongresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today wrote to Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, requesting to testify at the subcommittee's hearing Thursday, May 23, 2013, on his bill (H.R. 1797) that would ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in the District of Columbia (with limited exceptions), but in no other jurisdiction. In her letter, Norton said, "As the only Member of the House who is elected by and accountable to the residents of the District of Columbia, I hope you will allow me to represent the views of my constituents at the hearing."
Last Congress, Franks denied Norton the right to testify at his subcommittee hearing on the D.C. abortion ban bill, and on another bill directed at D.C. residents, H.R. 3, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which, among other things, would have permanently banned the District from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women.
Last Congress, the Congresswoman, pro-choice congressional allies and a coalition of 100 national and local organizations defeated the D.C. abortion ban bill in a vote on the House floor, while the Senate companion bill did not receive a hearing or a vote.
Norton said the Franks bill singles out the District for discriminatory treatment by prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in only one local jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, violates the explicit terms of Roe v. Wade, guaranteeing abortion rights to women in the U.S., and attacks the city's home-rule rights by violating the individual constitutional rights of city residents. Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) has reintroduced the D.C. abortion ban bill (S.886) in the Senate.
Following vocal opposition last month when Franks introduced H.R. 1797, Franks said that he was "astonished" to hear opponents of his bill say it usurps local authority. Norton said, "Representative Franks' assertion that he is upholding the Constitution in usurping a local jurisdiction's authority by intentionally violating women's constitutional rights to reproductive freedom is as egregious and groundless as the bill itself. In keeping with basic principles of local control and democracy, Congress delegated its legislative authority over the District of Columbia to an elected local government in 1973, except for a small number of enumerated exceptions. The right to reproductive choice was not among those exceptions."
The full text of the letter follows.
May 16, 2013
Dear Chairman Franks:
I write to request the courtesy, as a Member of the House of Representatives, of testifying at the hearing on H.R. 1797, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, particularly considering that my district, the District of Columbia, is the only one affected by the bill. The House, under both parties, has a long tradition of affording members the courtesy of testifying, in addition to the invited witnesses, especially when the subject matter is a member's own district. As the only Member of the House who is elected by and accountable to the residents of the District of Columbia, I hope you will allow me to represent the views of my constituents at the hearing.
Eleanor Holmes Norton