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05.17.12 - (PRESS RELEASE) Members of the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee will consider a bill today to ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks, allowing an exception only when the pregnant woman’s life is in danger.
The district’s sole congressional representative, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, was blocked from testifying in opposition before the committee today — rejecting the longstanding House tradition to allow Members of Congress to speak at hearings related to bills directly affecting their constituents.
Said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This law is as cruel as it is unconstitutional. It universally restricts the constitutionally protected reproductive rights of all women in the District of Columbia with absolutely no regard for the unique circumstances, challenges, or threats to women’s health that any individual pregnancy can present.
“This extreme intrusion into the District’s home rule piles injury on top of injury. It is anti-democratic and shameful that the subcommittee would bar the District’s elected representative from speaking on behalf of her constituents and their needs.
“Women living in the District deserve far better than to be used as props in an aggressive anti-choice agenda.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has consistently held states cannot ban abortion before a fetus would be viable outside the womb. However, this proposed measure would ban all post-20 week abortion procedures in the District, with an exception only if a woman needs an abortion to prevent her death.
The Court has also found that any restrictions on abortion must include an exception when an abortion is “necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health” of a woman. The bill prohibits physicians from providing such abortions to women who need them.
The bill imposes criminal penalties on any doctor found to violate the law, including up to $250,000 in fines and up to two years in prison. Further, if a woman is able to obtain an abortion under this extreme provision, the law would allow nearly anyone in a woman’s life—such as her husband, sibling, parent, or even any doctor who has ever treated her for any condition—to file a civil action in court to prevent her abortion provider from serving any other women in the future.
D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Del. Norton vowed earlier this year to fight the efforts of the bill’s primary sponsor Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) to target the District for their anti-choice agenda.