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Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton

Representing the District of Columbia

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

Jul 16, 2019
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) said today that she opposes, for home-rule reasons, the Federal Prohibition of Female Genital Mutilation Act of 2019 (H.R. 3583), which would make female genital mutilation on minors a federal crime if it occurs in the District of Columbia or in connection with interstate or foreign commerce.  Norton opposes the bill because it would regulate conduct in the District that the federal government cannot regulate in the states, violating D.C. home-rule.  Last week, Norton announced her opposition to the Senate version of the bill (S. 2017).

“I personally oppose female genital mutilation, a practice that must not be condoned, but the House and Senate bills seek to prohibit the practice as a local D.C. matter, which only the District should do,” Norton said.  “I note that the House and Senate bills were introduced with only Republican cosponsors.  These bills treat the District differently than the states.  As long as that inconsistency remains, I will urge the House and Senate to join me in seeking the appropriate small change.”

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 prohibit.  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.  The House and Senate bills are substantially similar to DOJ’s draft bill.  The bills make female genital mutilation on minors a crime only if it occurs in connection with interstate or foreign commerce or in D.C. or the territories.