Norton Says Markup of Republican Resolution Seeking Right of D.C. Employers to Inquire into Reproductive Choices of Employees is an Astonishing Infringement of an Individual’s Right to Personal Liberty
WASHINGTON, D.C.—In anticipation of a disapproval resolution that was introduced yesterday by Representative Diane Black (R-TN) to overturn a District of Columbia Council bill that protects employees in D.C. from discrimination based on their reproductive health decisions, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) has been meeting with national women’s rights and reproductive choice groups preparing to defend the D.C. legislation. The resolution was introduced only yesterday, but will be marked up on Thursday by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee (OGR), and is the only bill being marked up, even though the committee almost never convenes for markups of a single bill. Also pointing to the political nature of the resolution, Black is not a member of OGR, and the resolution will not receive a hearing prior to the markup. Norton said that the resolution to overturn the D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act (RHNDA) violates the spirit of the Home Rule Act of 1973, and that it is particularly ironic that the markup of the resolution is scheduled for D.C. Emancipation Day, a day D.C. statehood supporters call for home rule and full representation for the District’s 650,000 residents.
It appears OGR Republicans do not want to hold a hearing on the disapproval resolution, Norton said, to suppress evidence from across the country of the types of employment discrimination based on reproductive health decisions, including using contraception, being unmarried and pregnant, artificial insemination, and having an abortion, that RHNDA is intended to combat.
“If Congress wants to try and strike down our local law, the very least the District of Columbia is entitled to is an open hearing,” Norton said. “Instead, with little notice and no hearing, the disapproval resolution seeks not only to undermine the democratic will of D.C. voters, but also the constitutional rights of men and women to privacy concerning their most personal matters. An individual’s decisions concerning reproductive choices are personal health care decisions, and are perhaps the most private of decisions protected by the Constitution. Personal reproductive matters certainly are not work related, and are no business of an employer.
“The District’s local law supports the local interests of D.C. residents, who do not want to answer to their employers or anyone else for their reproductive choices. Disapproval of the D.C. bill by Congress would signal that the constitutional right to privacy has come under historic attack. That is why national organizations have already stepped up to oppose the same disapproval resolution introduced by Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and James Lankford (R-OK) in in the Senate. If Congress moves on this outrageous intrusion into the most personal and private liberty of an individual, it will galvanize Americans throughout the country.”
Congress passed the Home Rule Act in 1973 giving D.C. authority over its local laws, but all D.C. bills must be transmitted to Congress for a review period before they can take effect. The anti-discrimination bill was transmitted for a 30-legislative-day review period on March 6, 2015. A bill takes effect at the expiration of the review period unless a resolution of disapproval is enacted into law during that period. Norton has prevented a disapproval resolution from being enacted into law since 1991.