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D.C. Delegate Norton silenced at abortion bill hearing

May 18, 2012 at 11:02 AM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 18 (UPI) -- The District of Columbia's delegate to Congress was barred from speaking during a House hearing on a bill to ban abortions after 20 weeks in the district.

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., leads the panel that heard his bill that would limit abortion rights in the nation's capital to 20 weeks except to save the mother's life.

D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was denied her request to testify, even though it is generally an accepted courtesy to allow congressional members to speak at hearings on matters affecting their districts if they ask, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

Presiding over the Subcommittee on the Constitution hearing Thursday, Franks said Congress has the constitutional authority to "exercise exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever" in the District of Columbia. He also described late-term abortions as "inhumane" and "torturous," calling them "the greatest human rights atrocity in the United States today."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., the subcommittee's ranking Democrat, called the measure another attack on women's rights and leveled criticism at Republicans for not allowing Norton to testify.

"Never in my 20 years as a member of Congress have I seen a colleague treated so contemptuously," said Nadler, who wasn't allowed to testify about an abortion measure last year.

On Thursday, Republicans and Democrats argued over procedure after Norton's request to testify was rejected, the Post said. Franks offered to have her sit on the dais with other House members but she couldn't speak or ask questions. Norton declined.

"We have a member of Congress who wants to come in to talk about her district," House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said. "I can't even imagine a situation where someone else would be denied that opportunity, and I think it's wrong."

Norton said Franks' bill filled her with "disgust and anger," because its reach "goes well beyond anything we have experienced."

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray, a Democrat, said if Franks feels strongly about how the city is run, "I would invite him to become a candidate for D.C. Council."

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