On Tuesday August 31st, Congressional leaders in Washington voted on weather the District could ban abortions. Congressional members voted 220 to 154 to pass the bill, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass the measure under the suspension of normal rules and the bill failed.
A day later, Utah Republican Senator Mike Lee filed the bill, called the “District of Columbia Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” as an amendment to a cyber security bill under debate on the Senate floor.
The bill sought to ban late-term abortions in the District, those occurring after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Six Republicans voted against it and 17 Democrats voted for it. Two lawmakers ducked the issue by voting “present:” Reps. Nan Hayworth (N.Y.) and Steven LaTourette (Ohio).
Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks authored the bill and has stated that his reasoning relies on the theory that fetuses are capable of experiencing pain after 20 weeks authored the bill. However, the medical community is divided on this issue.
Franks has called this the “greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today.” But Democrats have said this bill was a “war on women” and is unconstitutional on women’s rights and the rights of District residents.
Although the District’s Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton could not vote on the bill, she did encourage her congressional colleagues to vote against it. She said, “The folks behind this bill care nothing about the District of Columbia. They have picked on the District to get a phony federal imprimatur on a bill that targets Roe v. Wade.”
Pro-choice advocates of the bill see it as an intrusion of their right to self-determination under the Home Rule Act of 1973.
Holmes she was denied a request to testify on the bill when it was in committee. Before the vote she said, “I ask members of this House to respect the laws and the women and the residents of the District of Columbia. Respect our differences eve as we respect yours.”