WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee Wednesday approved a bill by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, to ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
It came over the vehement opposition of city officials, who accused Franks of using the “District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” to make political points at the expense of district residents who oppose the bill.
“We resent to our core that we were used by Rep. Franks and by anti-abortion forces to make ideological points,” said Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., the city’s non-voting delegate to Congress.
If its supporters truly believed in the bill, they would make it apply nationally and not just in the district, Norton said. But Franks knows “that no changes would make this bill acceptable to the entire nation,” she said.
But Franks defended the bill, saying it is up to Congress to protect the rights of fetuses.
“If it’s a local prerogative to torture pain-capable children, then it’s the responsibility of Congress to respond,” he said.
Franks said the bill was needed because the city repealed most of its abortion restrictions earlier this year. But Norton said the district has done nothing more than what about a dozen states have done.
The bill makes it a crime for a physician to perform or attempt to perform an abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy unless the woman’s life was endangered by the pregnancy. Penalties for violating the law include fines and up to two years in prison.
The bill would let anyone who has been a woman’s health provider seek an injunction to block an abortion. Democrats said that could give a school nurse or a woman’s childhood pediatrician the ability to stop an abortion or stall it until it the pregnancy was well past the 20-week mark.
Democrats were particularly concerned that the bill does not make broad enough exceptions for the health of the mother or for women who were pregnant as a result of rape or incest, among other circumstances.
“The Constitution requires that any restriction on access to abortion provide an exception to protect the life or health of a woman,” said Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y.
The bill does allow an abortion if “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” is at stake. Franks dismissed criticism such as Nadler’s as diversions from the main goal of protecting fetuses from feeling pain at 20 weeks — a concept that opponents challenge.
“This is about 20 weeks,” Franks said.
Nadler’s amendment to exempt a woman from the 20-week limit if her health, not just her life, was at risk failed on a party-line vote, as did two other Democratic amendments. The committee voted 18-14, also along party lines, to approve the bill and send it to the full House.
“I’m grateful that it passed,” Franks said. “I’m sorry that it was distorted so dramatically.”
Norton said the bill, with 215 co-sponsors, has a good chance of passing the House. Its fate is much less certain in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
“He’s ganging up on the district, he’s abusing congressional power,” Norton said of Franks. “Because the home rule act never envisions that you can introduce separate bills for us and nobody else.”
- Failed back surgery: New hope for patients living in pain
- Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode
- Reading glasses could be a thing of the past
- 6 cool ways teachers are using technology in the classroom
- Emerging tech jobs in Phoenix and how to get one in 2017
- 4 top treatments athletes use for pain
- Emergency! What to do when bathrooms flood
- Operation Santa Claus needs holiday help
- This college bowl season is likely to be epic
- Arizona kids in crisis: How you can help
- 11 holiday classics for the ultimate movie marathon
- 2016 college football rivalry games you simply can't miss
- New treatment offers hope for migraine sufferers
- 11 stadiums to watch your favorite football team
- Shopping for a TV? Best models for 2016
- The new beer pairing guide for holiday foods
- Avoid this holiday plumbing disaster in your home
- 7 tips to avoid holiday weight gain
- New treatments mean better prostate cancer survival rates
- 5 of the scariest things found in drains
- 6 tips to create the best family movie night
- New bone marrow procedure holds promise for healing pain
- The best places to celebrate Fall in Phoenix
- Infamous athletes who did the most time for their crimes
- Diet, exercise and aspirin: 3 tools to fight colon cancer
- 2016 baseball highlights, bloopers and blunders
- See how CFOs really feel about business in the Valley
- The best television shows on the internet
- The 5 worst things you could do for your roof
- 6 coolest things brewing in Arizona