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June 8, 2011

Pro-Choice Americans Call on Congress to Stop the War on Women in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. – Today representatives of NARAL Pro-Choice America joined Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray, DC Vote, and other civil and reproductive rights leaders on Capitol Hill.

The organizations, representing millions of Americans, called on the House leadership to not use the upcoming appropriations process to advance a politically motivated agenda that takes decisions away from local leaders and undermines women’s freedom and privacy.

Donna Crane, a Washington, D.C. resident who serves as policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America, a national group with more than one million supporters, spoke at the news conference. Her remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

Along with many of our sister organizations here today and on behalf of our one million supporters and activists, I want to thank Delegate Norton and Mayor Gray for your incredible leadership on behalf of the nation’s capital.

We believe that no woman’s constitutional right to choose should depend upon her zip code or her income.  Two years ago, Congress lifted the discriminatory ban that barred the District of Columbia from using its own local dollars to provide low-income residents with access to abortion care.  Even some pro-life members of Congress voted to repeal this restriction. These lawmakers recognized that the ban was not just about abortion rights but was also a question of home rule.

But sadly, in April, the women of D.C. paid the price when the new House leadership brought back the ban as part of the budget deal. 

Let me tell you a story about how Congress’ actions can affect women’s lives.  At just one local clinic here in the District, 28 women were caught in the political crossfire.  They had scheduled appointments when funding was legal but in just a matter of days, Congress intervened and these 28 women had appointments but no way to pay for them.  Local charities scrambled to help – but that’s just one clinic, one day.  No one knows what happened to the women with appointments for the next day or the day after that. The D.C. abortion ban may represent politics for Congress but it has a real effect on D.C. women’s lives.

Can any of us imagine how it would feel to make a medical appointment only to discover that Congress has decided to intervene the day before?  Last time I checked, John Boehner did not run for mayor or city council in D.C.  How would the people of, say, Ohio feel if the D.C. City Council got to decide how Ohioans use their local funds?

In addition to the D.C. ban, this year the House has attacked Planned Parenthood, attempted to defund family-planning programs, and passed one of the worst attacks on abortion rights in recent memory, H.R.3.

Taken together, these actions show us that elections matter.  The question today for all of us who are frustrated with the current landscape is, “What can we do about it?” 

NARAL Pro-Choice America elects pro-choice candidates and supports pro-choice policies.  We know that the best way to change this situation is to elect more members who share our values and who won’t try to moonlight as members of the D.C. City Council. 

Delegate Norton, Mayor Gray, our nation-wide network of more than one million activists and our pro-choice allies here today stand with you and are ready to fight for the women of D.C.

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