City Desk

Trent Franks on Abortion Bill: “D.C. Is Not the Issue”

We caught Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) after his subcommittee’s hearing yesterday on a bill he sponsored that would ban abortion in D.C. after 20 weeks.

“District of Columbia is not the issue here,” he told us, stepping into an elevator. “It’s the pain of the child, and when people make the District of Columbia the issue they’re missing the point.”

The doors closed before he could elaborate on why the "pain of the child" matters more in D.C. than it does in states with voting representation in Congress. But Franks had managed, in the course of a couple of hours, to combine two political hot buttons in one hearing: Abortion rights and D.C.'s treatment by the federal government.

Doing that was made easier for Franks, though, by the fact that he didn't allow Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District's non-voting Democrat, to speak at the hearing. He invited her to sit on the dais silently; she declined. The one witness Democrats on the panel invited, D.C. resident Christy Zink, mostly spoke about the medically necessary abortion she'd had 21 weeks into a pregnancy.

If the bill—H.R. 3803, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act—had been law in 2009,her doctors would have been fined and probably faced jail time, she said at the hearing. Under the law, it would be illegal to perform abortions in D.C. after 20 weeks, no matter the circumstance.

Without the abortion she had at 21 weeks, Zink would have had to carry to term a baby that would’ve “experienced near-constant pain.”

“The decision I made to have an abortion at almost 22 weeks was made out of love and to spare my son’s pain and suffering,” Zink testified.

Zink’s voice cracked as she managed to finish her testimony.

Franks may think the District isn't the issue, but District advocates disagreed. Ilir Zherka of D.C. Vote urged Washingtonians to have their voices heard: “If [Franks] continues to act like a D.C. Council member or mayor of the District, then we’re going to treat him that way. We’re planning May 23 D.C. Constituency Day at his office, and we’re inviting D.C. residents to stop by his office and bring their D.C. complaints.”

And Zink weighed in for D.C. rights, as well. “Clearly this isn’t easy to talk about and it’s important for me but it’s really important for all of the women that don’t know that they have to make this decision,” Zink told us after the hearing, standing near the dais. “I have a house here. I vote here. I voted in a special election in my ward the other day. So I take that very seriously and the notion that somebody would come in from the outside and try to impose law that doesn’t reflect what the rest of D.C. residents [think], I think that’s a huge issue.”

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

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