D.C. Abortion Ban Fails in House

A bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks in the District of Columbia failed to get enough votes in the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday. The vote was 220-154 in favor of the bill, falling short of a two-thirds majority required under suspension of the rules, and therefore will not proceed to the Senate.

The bill, called the “D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act,” was sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks of Arizona who based the ban on the concept of “fetal pain.” Just before the vote, he stated that late-term abortions are “the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today.”

District Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, who does not have a vote on the House floor, urged Congressmembers to defeat the bill. “The folks behind this bill care nothing about the District of Columbia,” she said. “They have picked on the District to get a phony federal imprimatur on a bill that targets Roe v. Wade.” Franks is also the Republican Committee Chair, who, in an unusual move, denied Norton’s request to testify on the bill when it was in committee.

Congress has jurisdiction over the District, and many District officials spoke out against the bill because it takes away the right of D.C. to make its own laws. City leaders clashed with President Obama last year when he signed a bill that included a ban on local government funding for abortions in the District.

Senator Tom Harkin (IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, stated yesterday that Congress “should not interfere in the District of Columbia. Regardless of banning abortions after 20 weeks, this is no business for the U.S. Congress, period.”

House Republicans said that, while the measure failed, they felt they had succeeded in getting themselves on the record with this issue.

Media Resources: USA Today 7/31/12; Washington Post 7/31/12; The Hill 7/31/12; Huffington Post 7/31/12; DCist 5/15/12

Support eh ERA banner