Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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Norton Submits Statement on Provision Stripping D.C. Women of Reproductive Health Rights, Despite Being Denied Courtesy to Testify at Hearing

Jan 9, 2014
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After being denied the courtesy to testify, the office of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released the statement she would have given and that she has asked to be included in the record during today’s House Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice hearing on H.R. 7, which would, among other things, permanently prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women, and define the D.C. government as part of the federal government for the purposes of abortion.

Norton wrote to Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ), chair of the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, requesting to testify at the hearing on H.R. 7 on behalf of her constituents, who alone would be affected by a provision in the bill, citing the long-standing, bipartisan tradition of allowing members to testify on bills affecting their constituents, along with the usual invited witnesses.  Franks denied her request, as he did on this same bill in the last Congress.

Norton, in her statement, wrote, “this subcommittee has been obsessed with dual objectives -- infringing on the District’s right to self-government and interfering with the reproductive health of the District’s female residents, particularly its low-income women.  In three years of Republican control of the House, this is the fourth bill considered by this subcommittee that would both violate my local government’s right to self-government and harm its female residents…Republicans say they support limiting the federal government’s power and devolving that power to the states and localities.  This bill does the opposite.  It uses federal power to snatch local authority from the District of Columbia and its people.  Republicans may not want to practice what they preach, but we do not intend to allow them to violate their own principles at our expense.”

Earlier today, Norton held a press conference with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, to speak out against the bill and Franks’ denial of traditional courtesy.  Nadler made a motion at the hearing to allow Norton to testify, and it was again denied.

The text of the Congresswoman’s statement follows.

 

Statement of Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

H.R. 7, No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act

House Committee on the Judiciary

Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice

January 9, 2014

 

       Chairman Trent Franks’ denial of my request to testify today, particularly in light of the fact that H.R. 7, the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, singles out the local law and local funds of my district, is an insult to the people I represent and a personal discourtesy from one Member to another.  Members of Congress are usually afforded the courtesy of testifying, especially when a bill uniquely affects their district.  I had hoped for some modicum of fairness after the controversy generated by the chairman’s denial last Congress of my request to testify on his 20-week D.C. abortion ban bill and his denial of my request to testify on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act before that.  Following that controversy, Chairman Franks indicated I could testify on his 20-week D.C. abortion ban bill this Congress, but I declined because he expanded the bill to cover women throughout the United States and not only in D.C.

       I strongly oppose this sweeping anti-choice bill in its entirety, but I am specifically compelled to discuss the unique provision that singles out the District of Columbia.  Since Republicans assumed the majority in the 112th Congress, based on a platform of local control of local affairs, this subcommittee has been obsessed with dual objectives -- infringing on the District’s right to self-government and interfering with the reproductive health of the District’s female residents, particularly its low-income women.  In three years of Republican control of the House, this is the fourth bill considered by this subcommittee that would both violate my local government’s right to self-government and harm its female residents.

       H.R. 7 would permanently prohibit the District of Columbia government, but no other local government, from using its local funds for abortion services for low-income women, uniquely denying the District government the right local and state governments exercise to protect the reproductive rights of their female residents.  The District of Columbia provision is an attempt to codify a Republican-sponsored appropriations rider that prohibits D.C. from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women.  The bill also attempts to rewrite history to pretend that Congress did not pass the Home Rule Act of 1973.  Under the Home Rule Act, Congress delegated its legislative authority over the District to an elected local government, except for a small number of enumerated exceptions, and the right to reproductive choice was not among those exceptions.   H.R. 7 appears to recognize that Congress cannot legislate local law for a local government when it torturously redefines the term “federal government” to include the term “District of Columbia government” for purposes of abortion.  In particular, the bill, subject to very limited exceptions, would ban abortions in facilities owned or operated by the federal government, which, by definition in H.R. 7, would ban abortions in facilities owned or operated by the D.C. government.  Moreover, the bill would prohibit a physician or other individual employed by the federal government from performing an abortion, which, by definition in H.R. 7, would prohibit a physician or other individual employed by the D.C. government from performing an abortion.  The contortions upon which this provision depends undermine any basis for its legitimacy.

       The District of Columbia is a local jurisdiction of free American citizens, not a colony of the Congress.  This bill is a monument to autocracy and a mockery of American democracy.  We do not intend to let Republicans get away with supporting democracy everywhere on earth except in our own nation’s capital.  This bill goes many steps too far outside the realm of our democracy.  Not only would this bill harm the women of the United States, it would make matters even worse for the women of the District of Columbia by also eliminating part of the local government’s authority to regulate its own affairs and spend its own funds.

       Republicans say they support limiting the federal government’s power and devolving that power to the states and localities.  This bill does the opposite.  It uses federal power to snatch local authority from the District of Columbia and its people.  Republicans may not want to practice what they preach, but we do not intend to allow them to violate their own principles at our expense.

Published: January 9, 2014