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02.21.12 - (PRESS RELEASE) Joining pro-choice advocates in the fight against the latest attempt to block women in the District of Columbia from safe and legal abortion services, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton today vowed to fight Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-Ariz.) and Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-Utah) federal legislation proposing a ban on all abortions performed after 20 weeks’ gestation in the District.
Despite the Supreme Court’s repeated assertion that states cannot ban abortion for any reason prior to the point at which a fetus is viable outside the womb, these proposed bills attempt to replace the constitutional viability standard with a ban at 20 weeks. Further, these bills would only allow a post-20 week abortion in the District if a woman is near death or at risk of irreversible physical harm to a major bodily function. The bills would prohibit physicians from providing such abortions to women who are suffering from a severe mental illness, who are suicidal, and those who learn of a severe fetal anomaly.
Further, the bills would allow women seeking an abortion to be sued by nearly anyone, allowing a woman’s husband, sibling, parent, and even any doctor who has ever treated the woman for any condition, to sue to prevent her from getting an abortion.
“Mayor Gray and Rep. Norton simply want to protect the fundamental rights of the women in their home town,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “They should be able to do this without interference from congressmen living thousands of miles away from the District.”
“These unconstitutional bills would not only ban safe, legal, and often medically-necessary abortion services for D.C. women, it opens the door for women to be literally hauled into court for even trying to access an abortion.”
Today’s press conference heard testimony from George Washington University professor Christy Zink, who told her story of experiencing a 21-week abortion after severe fetal anomalies were discovered. The Franks-Lee bill, which establishes criminal penalties for providers who perform abortions beyond 20 weeks, would imperil the health and choices of women like Zink if it were to be enacted by Congress.
Congress has already interfered in the District’s autonomy and currently imposes a politically-motivated funding ban barring use of the District’s own local dollars for abortions for low-income women. The budget passed in December denies more than 60,000 non-elderly Medicaid-enrolled women the comprehensive reproductive healthcare they need— despite the fact that such funding is supported by the duly elected City Council and Rep. Norton, D.C.’s congressional representative.
Franks has introduced a number of extreme anti-choice legislative attacks on access to safe and legal abortion, including the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Non-Discrimination Act” — an attempt to ban abortions done on the basis of sex or race.