A bill to ban abortions in the District after 20 weeks of pregnancy will get a vote on the House floor next week, setting up a showdown between antiabortion groups and D.C. leaders and activists.
The measure, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), would prohibit abortions after 20 weeks except to save the life of the mother,
under the much-debated theory that fetuses beyond that point can experience pain.
Franks’s bill has 222 co-sponsors, meaning a majority of the House publicly supports it. But the measure will be on the House floor under suspension of the rules, which means no amendment will be allowed, and it will need a two-thirds majority to pass. It is unclear whether the bill can clear that hurdle, given that significant numbers of Democrats will likely vote against it.
The National Right to Life Committee has called the bill its No. 1 legislative priority, and the group has been a strong critic of what it considers to be the District’s especially lax abortion laws.
“This roll call will be a landmark – the House has never before voted on the question of whether to endorse legal abortion for any reason until birth,” said NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.
District officials, including Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), have strongly opposed the measure, both because they support abortion rights and because they consider it yet another usurpation of the city’s ability to govern itself.
“We are not puppets to be used by the right-to-life forces,” Norton said when the bill passed the House Judiciary Committee last week.