Debate over the bill has pitted the conservative House against the liberal local D.C. government, which opposes any restrictions on abortions as well as intrusions on the city's ability to self-govern. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has called the bill a federal attempt to dispose of local governance. Meanwhile, the National Right to Life Committee, a nationwide federation of right-to-life organizations, says the bill is its top legislative priority.
Sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., the latest effort to ban abortions in D.C. is known as the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Proponents of the legislation argue that by 20 weeks after fertilization, the fetus has developed the capacity to feel pain. Nine states have used this justification to pass restrictions on abortions.
With 222 co-sponsors, the bill has majority support. But the House will consider the bill under "suspension of the rules," a strategy requiring two-thirds majority vote to pass and normally used for noncontroversial bills. But with this highly partisan bill, it allows House Republicans and the NRLC to point the finger directly at House Democrats if the measure does not pass.
"A vote against H.R. 3803 will be accurately described as a vote to endorse and preserve the current policy of allowing legal abortion for any reason, until the moment of birth, in our nation's capital," NRLC wrote in a statement.
Photo: Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., presides over a hearing on Feb. 8, 2011. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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