Back on May 17, a hearing was held by the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, chaired by Representative Trent Franks of Arizona, on a bill that would ban abortions in the District of Columbia after 20 weeks, except to save the life of the mother.
Regardless of where you live in this country, the issue of abortion rights can always be counted on to generate a deeply emotional outpouring of rhetoric. But, if you live in the District of Columbia, there is much more at stake. Beyond the issue of women's reproductive rights, there is the issue of Congress' desire to dictate to the citizens of the District on social issues. And to do so without consulting with any of the District's elected officials.
Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was denied the opportunity to speak to the issue at this hearing, even though past practice would have allowed it. She was given permission to sit on the dais, but without permission to comment or ask questions of the witnesses. She declined.
A hearing held to collect opinions from both sides on a deeply divisive social issue that won't allow the District's sole representative, dare I say "non-voting" representative, to address the panel rises to the height of hypocrisy. It just doesn't make sense.
Rep. Franks has said that when people make the District of Columbia the issue, they're missing the point.
Of course, it is a mistake to solely focus on the process of passing or not passing this bill, but it is also a big mistake to go out of your way to deny the expression of the points of view of the District's elected officials. They must be given a seat at the table and be allowed to speak. Isn't that what democracy is all about?
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