Norton Opposes Female Genital Mutilation Bill that Creates Special Federal Crime in D.C.

Jul 9, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said today that, for home-rule reasons, she will oppose the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2019 (S. 2017), which would, among other things, make female genital mutilation on minors a federal crime if it occurs within the District of Columbia or in connection with interstate or foreign commerce.  Norton said that female genital mutilation should be a crime, but opposes all legislation in Congress that regulates conduct within the District that the federal government cannot regulate within the states.

“I note that this bill was introduced with only Republican cosponsors,” Norton said.  “Although I have just begun my review of the bill, it appears to be a bill both parties might support, except for the treatment of the District of Columbia.  I will oppose this bill so long as it treats the District as a part of the federal government, and will urge the House and Senate to join me in seeking the appropriate small change in this bill.”

In 1996, as part of an appropriations bill, Congress made female genital mutilation on minors a federal crime punishable by up to five years in prison.  In 2018, during the federal government’s first prosecution under the female genital mutilation statute, a federal district court judge struck down the statute as unconstitutional, holding that Congress did not have the authority to enact it under the Commerce Clause or the Necessary and Proper Clause.  The court said female genital mutilation is a matter for states to regulate.  The Department of Justice (DOJ) concluded that it could not defend the statute on appeal, and asked Congress to introduce legislation it had drafted to bring the statute into compliance with the Constitution.  S. 2017 is substantially similar to DOJ’s draft bill.  S. 2017 makes female genital mutilation on minors a crime only if it occurs in connection with interstate or foreign commerce or within D.C. or the territories.