For the second time this year, House Republicans have prevented a woman from testifying before Congress regarding reproductive rights issues. This time, however, the target is a fellow lawmaker, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
Just months after Republican Rep. Darrell Issa of California prevented a female Georgetown University law student from joining an all-male panel on the issue of contraception, another GOP committee chairman won’t allow Norton to testify against a bill which would ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who also is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee subcommittee considering the legislation, denied Norton’s request to speak out against it. The legislation in question is the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.
Norton, who has no ability to vote on the bill — or any matters in the House — because the District of Columbia is not a state, instead says she will offer written testimony. The lack of a vote in Congress inspired D.C.’s license plates with the slogan “Taxation Without Representation,” because residents are required to pay federal income tax.
However, Christy Zink, a George Washington University professor and District of Columbia resident who had an abortion 21 weeks and five days into her pregnancy, after doctors found a cyst on the brain of the fetus and a follow-up MRI revealed severe fetal brain abnormalities, will be allowed to testify against the bill during Thursday’s hearing.
“Women in the District of Columbia have been singled out for an unprecedented attack on their constitutional rights,” Norton says. “Christy Zink will speak for us all in the District and for women throughout America, as versions of this bill have passed in several states.”
Although Zink will be allowed to speak out, the fact that Norton herself will not be allowed to address the matter in person has rankled other congressional Democrats, notably Sen. Barbara Mikulski of neighboring Maryland.
“Reps in Congress elected 2 speak on behalf of people, your rep should not b sidelined! Let DC Rep @EleanorNorton speak on DC women’s health!” the senator tweeted on Wednesday.