District leaders on Monday slammed two Republican proposals to limit abortions in D.C. as an unconstitutional example of congressional meddling, but one GOP representative said reproductive rights in Washington are within Congress’ jurisdiction.
“This is a bill that seeks to intentionally discriminate against women because they live in the nation’s capital,” Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton said Tuesday. “This bill speeds past any regard for Federalist principles and local accountability.”
The bills would ban most abortions in the District after a woman reached the 20th week of pregnancy, allowing exceptions only if the woman’s life was endangered. Supporters claim the measures would prevent unborn children from experiencing what they say are painful abortion procedures. Although women who had the illegal abortions wouldn’t be subject to prosecution, involved physicians would face two years in prison.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said he thought the measures were illegal and offensive.
“This is yet another assault on freedom for people in the District of Columbia,” Gray said. “This is yet another indication of how we are abused and disrespected.”
The D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act also outraged abortion rights activists.
“Its very premise — that it prevents pain — is a lie,” said Christy Zink, a D.C. resident who had an abortion when she was 22 weeks pregnant because her son developed a fatal neurological condition. “This proposed law is downright cruel, as it would inflict pain on families, the women and the babies it purports to protect.”
Rep. Trent Franks, the Arizona Republican behind the House bill, argued that children can also feel pain before birth.
“Medical science proves that the unborn feel pain by at least 20 weeks and perhaps much earlier,” Franks said in a statement. “There is no disagreement in the medical community as to this point.”
Franks told The Washington Examiner that District leaders are using congressional interference in local affairs as an excuse to oppose his bill.
“Home rule doesn’t transcend the U.S. Constitution,” said Franks, who added that the Constitution grants Congress “absolute responsibility” over D.C. “They’d like to make that the issue rather than the pain of unborn children.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, has introduced similar legislation in the Senate, which Democrats control.
But Franks questioned whether Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada would ultimately schedule a vote on either measure, but he predicted success if the bills reach the floor.
“If it gets a vote in the Senate, it passes,” Franks said. “Same with the House.”
Both bills are awaiting committee action.