The House is scheduled to vote late Tuesday on a bill that prohibits abortions in the District after 20 weeks of pregnancy, a controversial move that has been heavily promoted by pro-life advocates and decried by city officials and Planned Parenthood.
The bill introduced in January by Rep. Trent Franks, Arizona Republican, made it through committee along party lines and has attracted 222 cosponsors in the Republican-controlled House.
The House is considering the bill under a suspension of rules, a move that prohibits amendments to the bill and limits debate on the floor, yet requires the Republican majority to muster two-thirds approval for it to pass. While the roll call will force House members to be counted and evaluated by interest groups’ scorecards, a companion bill pending in the Democrat-controlled Senate is unlikely get much traction.
Limitations in the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act would not apply in cases where an abortion is necessary to protect the life of the pregnant woman or prevent her “irreversible physical impairment.” However, it would still apply in cases of rape, incest, or if the fetus has a medical condition.
The measure quickly became a lightning rod for criticism from pro-choice advocates and D.C. officials, who saw it as an intrusion on their right to self-determination under the Home Rule Act of 1973.
House Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s non-voting member of Congress, has praised Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America for deciding to score the House roll call so voters know where individual members stand on their issues.
In a brief speech Tuesday on the House floor, Ms. Norton, a Democrat, said the Republican majority has “reinvigorated the pro-choice movement” with a calculated measure that affects the District alone, yet no states with full voting rights in Congress.
“They didn’t want to get women worked up in an election year.” Ms. Norton said
Conversely the National Right to Life Committee has vocally supported the bill, arguing it mirrors legislation in other states and that the constitutional powers of Congress include exercising legislative authority over the District.
In committee, Mr. Franks frequently referred to the fetus as “a little baby.” He said the abortion of fetuses who can feel pain is “the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today.”
D.C. Vote, a group that advocates for full democracy in the District, protested the measure with fliers that asked Mr. Franks to stop being a “wiener.” They also held a constituents’ service day outside his House office, so city residents could ask “Mayor Franks” to fix sundry complaints like broken school steps and rodent infestations.