Last week, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) held a press conference to speak out against the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would prohibit women in the District of Columbia from having an abortion after 20 weeks gestation unless her life is in danger. Representative Norton remarked, “This bill discriminates against women because they live in the District of Columbia.” DC Mayor Vince Gray, also in attendance, criticized the bill, which was introduced in January by Arizona Representative Trent Franks (R) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT).

Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated, “Mayor Gray and Rep. Norton simply want to protect the fundamental rights of the women in their home towns. 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.”

Franks, however, has defended his position by saying, “Congress has the seminal and incontrovertible responsibility for making legislative policy in the District of Columbia.”

The bill is based on the unfounded notion that the fetus can feel pain at this point in the pregnancy. The American College of Gynecology refutes assertions that fetuses can feel pain at 20 week, stating that there is “no legitimate evidence that fetuses can experience pain.” Currently, six states – Idaho, Nebraska, Kansas, Alabama, Indiana, and Oklahoma – have “fetal pain” laws. These laws directly challenge the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, which allows women to obtain abortion services until fetal viability at 22-24 weeks

DCist.com 2/22/12; Center for Reproductive Rights 2/21/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 1/26/12