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D.C. Abortion Ban, Authored By Arizona Rep. Trent Franks, Draws Ire From Locals

Trent Franks

First Posted: 01/25/2012 4:12 pm Updated: 01/25/2012 7:43 pm

Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) drew a heap of criticism from Washington, D.C., locals on Monday when he introduced a bill that would ban women there from having abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

H.R. 3803, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, is an abortion ban similar to the one Nebraska passed in 2010, which is based on the speculation that fetuses are capable of feeling pain after 20 weeks. Five other states passed 20-week bans in 2011, none of which include exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape and incest.

Washington, D.C., Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) sharply criticized the Arizona congressman for attempting to interfere with the personal medical decisions of D.C. women, who had no part in electing him.

“We do not intend to succumb to the insatiable Republican obsession with interfering with the rights of women in our city,” Norton said in a statement. "Instead of spending the recess focused on jumpstarting the economy or attending to the business of his own constituents, Representative Franks appears to have used his time at home figuring out new ways to undemocratically usurp the local authority of American citizens who did not elect him and who have no way to hold him accountable."

Since Congress has jurisdiction over D.C. and its budget, lawmakers have long used the city as a bargaining chip in budget negotiations. Most recently, House Republicans passed a federal spending bill in December that banned the District from using its own locally raised funds to subsidize abortion care for low-income women.

Franks told HuffPost that "the constitution could not be more clear" about the fact that U.S. congressmen from any state have the power to write laws for D.C.

"Those, like Representative Holmes Norton, who oppose the D.C. Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act on the basis that its primary sponsor is from a different state simply fail to understand a Constitutional principle that couldn't be more plain," he said. "Congress has the seminal and incontrovertible responsibility for making legislative policy in the District of Columbia. Those who pretend to question that are in fact trying to direct attention away from the true purpose of this bill, which is to help prevent unborn children beginning at the sixth month of pregnancy and beyond from being subject to the agonizing process of being aborted."

DC Vote, an advocacy organization dedicated to securing full voting representation for the District of Columbia, called the bill a "clear violation of basic democratic principles."

"The people of the District of Columbia are once again being used as pawns in a national political game," said Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote. "If Representative Franks is so intent on using federal power to advance his personal beliefs, perhaps he should craft a similar bill that applies to Glendale, AZ."

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