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February 21, 2012

Pro-Choice Americans Call on Congress to Stop Attack on D.C. Women’s Freedom and Privacy

Washington, D.C.Today representatives of NARAL Pro-Choice America joined Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray, and other reproductive rights leaders to amplify their opposition to anti-choice bills that would undermine the ability of women in the city to make personal, private medical decisions with their doctors.

The two bills, H.R.3803/S.1203, would ban abortion at 20 weeks, without consideration for the woman’s situation or exceptions to protect her health. District of Columbia resident Christy Zink, who had an abortion at 21 weeks and five days after doctors found a cyst on the brain of the fetus and a follow-up MRI revealed severe fetal anomalies of the brain, spoke at the news conference. If the ban proposed by the bills had been in effect, Zink would not have had this option in D.C.

The bills are modeled after an abortion ban enacted in Nebraska in 2010. As of 2011, five more states followed Nebraska’s lead and now anti-choice organizations are pressuring Congress to override local elected leaders and impose this ban on the women of D.C.

Lissy Moskowitz, a Washington, D.C. resident who serves as deputy 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:

I am also a proud resident of the District of Columbia.  On behalf of NARAL’s one million members 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.  Yet, as we’ve heard here this morning, the Franks/Lee bill singles out the District of Columbia for an outright ban on abortion care after 20 weeks, regardless of the woman’s situation and without adequate exceptions to protect her health.

Without question, this far-reaching agenda is yet another example of how this Congress is out of touch with our country’s values and priorities.

As we heard earlier, Christy’s story about her experience illustrates that 20-week abortion bans are a cruel attempt by anti-choice forces to curb access to care for women in the most challenging/difficult of circumstances. 

D.C. is the latest target in an anti-choice effort to take decisions away from women and their doctors.

What we’re seeing today started less than two years ago in Nebraska, and it’s spreading state by state.  As of 2011, five more states followed Nebraska’s lead, bringing the tally up to six.  Sponsors of these bills freely admit that they are trying to lure the Supreme Court into discarding the Roe v. Wade framework and therefore threaten the reproductive rights of women across the country.  With that, it should come as no surprise that the National Right to Life Committee has declared the Franks/Lee bill its top legislative priority.    

Opponents of choice long have used the District of Columbia as an anti-choice proving ground.  The Franks/Lee bill aimed at the reproductive rights of women living in the nation’s capital is no different.

NARAL is fully prepared to fight back against this latest egregious attack on a woman’s right to choose, just as we did last year when anti-choice forces hijacked the appropriations process and reimposed the D.C. abortion funding ban as part of their ongoing War on Women.  NARAL delivered nearly 135,000 signatures in opposition to a bill that would have permanently codified this discriminatory policy, and last year our activist network channeled more than 400,000 messages to Congress opposing anti-choice measures.  In the week preceding Senate action on this issue, we directed over 1,200 calls to targeted offices which helped prevent the DC ban from becoming part of the Senate’s bill.  NARAL Pro-Choice America is prepared to put the same level of activism toward fighting the Franks/Lee bill.  We will not allow this assault on the women of the District of Columbia go unanswered.   

Delegate Norton and Mayor Gray: our nation-wide network of more than one million members 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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