May 28, 2012

THE ISSUES ADMITTEDLY are not normally the domain of a member of Congress. But D.C. residents who wanted to discuss problems of city potholes, rat infestations and broken streetlights with Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.) were trying to make an important point. If Mr. Franks is so interested in running the affairs of District residents, as evidenced by his effort to restrict their abortion rights, then let him deal with all the other issues of local government.

No surprise that Mr. Franks locked his doors to last week’s protest by D.C. Vote and turned off his phones. Nor is it any surprise that his noxious bill to restrict the constitutional rights of women in the nation’s capital is likely to advance. It’s pretty clear that the rights or wishes of D.C. residents matter little on Capitol Hill, particularly to members of the House Republican majority.

The latest demonstration of that disregard came when Mr. Franks refused D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) the traditional courtesy of testifying about his proposal to restrict abortions during a May 17 subcommittee hearing. Why bother hearing what the District’s representative has to say about the measure — how it will impact her constituents — when indifference to those concerns is so apparent?

Mr. Franks’s explanation — as told to the Washington City Paper — is that the “District of Columbia is not the issue here. It’s the pain of the child.” The proposed legislation, the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, would prohibit abortions in the District beyond the 20th week after fertilization. It’s patterned after laws in five other states and, not surprisingly, is being aggressively pushed by the National Right to Life Committee, which sees an opportunity to make political points this election year. What’s specious about Mr. Franks’s argument, as we have previously noted, is that if his concern is with the pain of innocents — an argument unsupported by real science — then why aren’t he and the National Right to Life Committee pushing for a nationwide ban?

The answer, of course, is that the District can always be counted on for easy pickings for politicians who don’t mind scoring political points at the expense of D.C. citizens.