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House Ignores Del. Norton, Passes Markup On D.C. Abortion

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D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) is upset with House Republicans for not letting her testify at Wednesday's markup on a bill that would tighten restrictions on abortionn in the District.

The U.S. House Judiciary Committee approved the legislation, which would ban abortions in the District after the twentieth week of pregnancy, without input from Holmes Norton.

Republican Congressman Trent Franks is spearheading the effort, which would enact tougher abortion standards in D.C. than women face in his Arizona district. "In fact, there is no standard legal rule to provide that an unborn child receive anesthesia," said Franks. "In this respect, unborn children receive less legal protection from completely unnecessary cruelty than farm animals which have protection under the Humane Slaughter Act."

Holmes Norton, D.C. officials and women's rights groups vehemently oppose the legislation, but they weren't heard from by panel members.  It was the second time this summer that Norton, the District's lone representative in Congress, was denied the chance to testify on a bill that only affects D.C. residents. 

In her stead, Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson read a statement from Holmes Norton at the mark-up: "My constituents would also count on me to note for the record the subcommittee's callous disregard of longstanding congressional courtesy in denying my request to testify, particularly considering that the subject matter under consideration affects only my district."

The legislation now moves to the House floor, where supporters are eager to pass it. Franks has secured 214 sponsors, which will make it hard for Democrats to block it in the House.

Norton herelf took to the House floor Tuesday to protest, and also issued a statement calling the measure  an "abuse of power and denial of Democratic rights." 

House Republicans are "acting like schoolyard bullies," she added, saying lawmakers are ganging up on D.C. because they do not have the courage to introduce a nationwide bill banning abortions after 20 weeks. 

The proposal is being pushed by the National Right to Life Committee, an anti-abortion group. The NRLC has made the bill its top legislative priority on Capitol Hill this year. Nine states have passed similar legislation, but this particular bill is expected to die in the Senate later this year if passed by the full House.

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