Congresswoman “Norton Releases Testimony She Was Denied the Courtesy of Offering in Advance of Hearing”

From a press release:

“Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) today released the written testimony she will submit for the record of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution’s hearing on a bill (H.R. 3803) that would ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy, having been denied the congressional courtesy of testifying at today’s hearing at 4:00 p.m. in 2141 Rayburn House Office Building. Norton will also speak at a press conference at 2:30 p.m. in 2167 Rayburn House Office Building on the bill, where she will be joined by Professor Christy Zink, a District of Columbia resident who had an abortion at 21 weeks, after doctors found severe brain abnormalities in the fetus, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, and National Abortion Federation President Vicki Saporta.

Norton’s office has received an unprecedented outpouring of support, especially on Twitter and Facebook from senators, Members of the House, and women across the country, who have spoken out not only against the bill itself, but also on the failure of House Republicans to observe congressional courtesy to allow the Congresswoman to testify at a hearing on a bill that targets only her district.”

Full statement after the jump.

What matters in the submission of this testimony is what H.R. 3803 and this subcommittee are attempting to do to the citizens I represent, and, therefore, I submit this testimony as part of my responsibility to them, and ask that it be included in the record of today’s hearing. However, my constituents would also count on me to note for the record the subcommittee’s callous disregard of long-standing congressional courtesy in denying my request to testify, in addition to the invited witnesses, particularly considering that the subject matter under consideration affects only my district. Unlike every member of this subcommittee, I am elected by, and am accountable to, the residents of the District of Columbia.

This is the second time in the 112th Congress that the majority has focused exclusively on my district while denying my request to testify. How very easy it is for the majority to gang up on the District of Columbia after supporting the continuing denial of its tax-paying citizens to representation in the House and Senate. How irresistible it has been to pick on the District of Columbia and its citizens with not one but two bills that the majority dares not try to apply to all citizens of the United States. The lack of courage of the majority’s convictions is breathtaking. Common courtesy and the congressional tradition of comity and respect demand that the Member elected to speak for the only Americans affected by a bill be allowed to speak for them, regardless of other witnesses who may speak to the underlying issue. Last year, I was denied to speak on H.R. 3, a bill that would permanently prohibit only one jurisdiction, the District of Columbia, from spending its local funds on abortions for low-income women. Today it is H.R. 3803, which would bar the women of only one district, the District of Columbia, from having abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Fortunately, the majority has not yet found a way to completely silence our residents. I thank the minority for inviting Professor Christy Zink, who has agreed to speak for us, as few others could, as a mother whose tragic experience compelled an abortion after 20 weeks into her pregnancy.

Some are debating whether Republicans have been engaging in a “war on women” in our country. What is not debatable is the Republican fixation on the women of the District of Columbia. The Republican majority, which was elected on a promise of jobs and devolving power to state and local governments, brought the federal government (and with it, the District of Columbia government) to within an hour of shutting down in April 2011, and relented only after it succeeded in re-imposing an undemocratic rider on a spending bill that prohibits the District of Columbia from spending its own local funds on abortions for low-income women. Although the abortion rider remains in place today, it has not satisfied the apparently insatiable hunger of Republicans to expand the reach of the federal government into local affairs. Today, they are moving from interfering with the decisions of low-income women in the District of Columbia, to attacking every woman in the District of Columbia.

H.R. 3803 is unprincipled twice over. It is the first bill ever introduced in Congress that would deny constitutional rights to the citizens of only one jurisdiction in the United States, and it is the first bill ever introduced in Congress that would ban abortions after twenty weeks of pregnancy. Republicans claim that the bill does not usurp local authority because Congress has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia. However, that argument has been unavailing for 39 years, since Congress gave up that power over the District of Columbia, except for a small number of enumerated exceptions, with passage of the Home Rule Act of 1973. The right to reproductive choice was not among those exceptions.

The supporters of H.R. 3803 surely know that it is unconstitutional on two counts. The bill violates the reproductive rights spelled out in Roe v. Wade, as well as the 14th Amendment right to equal treatment under the law by intentionally discriminating against women who live in the nation’s capital. D.C. residents are used to Members piling on, but we will never hesitate to fight back, especially when Members have the audacity to try to place our citizens outside the protections of the U.S. Constitution, as H.R. 3803 does. As the Supreme Court said in Callan v. Wilson, “There is nothing in the history of the Constitution or of the original amendments to justify the assertion that the people of th[e] District [of Columbia] may be lawfully deprived of the benefit of any of the constitutional guarantees of life, liberty, and property.”

Why, then, a hearing today on a bill that violates the right to reproductive freedom, equal protection, and federalism all at once? The answers are inescapable. Republicans do not dare take on the women of this country who have voting Members of the House and Senate with a post-20-week ban on abortions. Instead, the majority has chosen a cheap and cynical way to make its ideological point during an election year. With last year’s civil disobedience, D.C. residents and officials showed that we will never accept second-class treatment of our city. Today we want this subcommittee to know that we will never accept second-class treatment of our citizens, either.

39 Comment

  • Personally, I have no problem with not using tax dollars for abortions and outlawing abortions after 20 weeks.

    • If by “DC resident” you mean a person in town for a couple years to work for their Congress person…I am sure you wouldn’t care that the only vote you really have isn’t even allowed to testify…because you probably don’t even vote here.

      • I’ve been registered to “vote” here for five+ years. I don’t work for anyone in Congress. If you think you’re not represented well because you’re a district resident, try being pro-life and a district resident.

        • You’re conflating two issues. There is a very big difference between “not being represented well” because the majority of your fellow citizens disagree with you and “not being represented well” because you have no representation.

    • What about having a social issue bill targeting only DC? And then not allowing its only representative to speak? I don’t care what side of the issue you fall on (I think you very much fall on the wrong side). this is about Congress meddling in DC in the most highhanded way.

    • Then you should take it up with your city council member. Something tells me you wouldn’t be as forgiving of congressional meddling if they instead proposed to require DC to use its tax dollars to pay for abortions. For most DC residents, this is more of a home rule issue than a matter of reproductive rights.

      • If you re-read DCResident’s comment, you’ll see that he (assuming a ‘he’) hasn’t said anything at all about the federal govt ‘meddling’ in DC politics. He merely stated his opinion on the abortion issue. It only took 5 minutes before someone jumped in to insinuate that he’s not even allowed to have an opinion because he’s not a “real” DC resident, and to make sweeping assumptions that he doesn’t vote.

        You left out “Why don’t you move back to the suburbs”.


        • That is because “he” responded to this aricle by ignoring the blaring fact that if we were in a Democratic Congress and they decided to force DC to pay for abortions “he” would not be so dismissive of DC rights.

          • Just to clarify: I assumed ‘he’ strictly to avoid having to say “he/she” and “his/her” all over the place. (Not as a statement or judgement on the opinion). Wasn’t intended as a statement or judgement or explanation of rationale for his/her opinion.

        • Oh, give me a break. The clear implication of his comment was that he agreed with what the House is trying to do. And I didn’t say anything about him not being a real DC resident or the he didn’t have a right to his opinion. To the contrary, I quite clearly said that he should contact his council member.

    • the bill isn’t about tax dollars, it would ban a medical procedure. nothing about taxes being used. don’t drag that into the debate.

    • Read the bill language… this is not about using tax payer dollars.

      A woman who discovered her unborn child had a severe birth defect at 20 weeks would no longer have the option to terminate the pregnancy. Period. I have a toddler and the “big” ultrasound where they look closely at the anatomy does not occur until around the 20th week. (I had mine at 21 weeks.) This should be a private decision between the mother, father, and doctor… not a decision made by a lawmaker from a random southwestern State.

    • I get the impression that it isn’t just about what they are proposing but that they went about it without much notice of Norton – the person that represents the people most directly affected. Basically they just shit on her and told her that she (and by extension) we don’t matter.

  • I have a problem with the hypocracy of these “small government” conservatives who force their policies on a constituency without representation. The issue isn’t really abortion (which I believe is a personal issue), it’s a matter of the lack of democratic representation for District residents.

    • People can call Trent Franks office (202-225-4576), walk over there (2435 Rayburn), and call his district office (326-776-7911) to ask why, if he is so concerned with the unborn in the District, he is not as concerned with the currently living in DC?

      Encourage Jim Moran/Chris Van Hollen to introduce bills that only impact the constituents of Arizona’s 2nd District.

  • Ugh, I hate how disenfranchised I feel as a DC resident. Why aren’t we, like, rioting in the streets and setting up barricades or whatever to demand our voting rights.

    I’m actually kind of half serious about that.

    • I think something like a strike of DC-residents to serve or work for those who do not help the District get representation would be helpful. To bring attention to the number of people impacted. It’ll never happen, though – much easier to bitch on PoP! 🙂

      • I agree! It is fun to complain on here. 🙂

        But I really do think we should all be marching in the streets and burning sh*t and (nonviolently) causing mayhem. Seriously.

        • I’m with you on this. I think we should shut the streets down around the Hill. Let em know we’re not going to take this. They try to mess with our gay marriage law and I will be burning this motha down.

      • I have been convinced for a long time that DC will never get voting rights unless there is a general strike. Nothing will change until Congress is embarrassed before the entire world.

        • …if congress isn’t currently a world embarrassment, I don’t think a strike will cause one. However, there are issues that DCers complain about (crime, lack of representation) but then do so little to change. Why is there no rally at police HQ about the crime? Why no march at the Capitol regarding representation?

          • Well, my point is just that most of the world is unaware that the U.S.–which holds itself up as a model of democracy–denies democracy to the citizens of its capital. If people took the streets in large numbers, this dark little fact would be splayed across TV sets and websites around the globe. This would be profoundly embarrassing to the nation, as it should be.

  • Um, why is there a picture of some Gary Coleman (RIP) graffiti at the top of this article?

  • so sick of Norton; she seems a near-total waste of space at this point.

  • I just don’t understand how the same guys who campaign on limiting the federal government come into office and think that the federal government should create mandates for DC and that DC doesn’t get a say.

    Do they not see the hypocrisy?

  • With the insane charges she regularly levels at the Republicans I can’t say I’m shocked they didn’t want to listen to her.

  • Wow, super brave of that woman to testify about her late-term abortion due to fetal anomoly. I spent a few terrifying weeks thinking I was going to be in her same position — and the only thing that marginally helped is that my doctors would have been able to do the termination here in the district. Otherwise, you might have to face flying to Colorado or something like that.

  • What has she actually done besides show up at rallies?

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