DC Vote Protests Congressional Attacks on District of Columbia at Hearing
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February 8, 2011
Advocates Stand Gagged and Silent in Opposition to House Committee Action that Mistreats DC
Washington, DC - DC democracy activists staged a silent protest action during a hearing held by the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution to review H.R. 3, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act." The protesters wore gags and stood silently to show their objection to a specific portion of the bill, Section 310, titled "Application to District of Columbia."
The bill bars Federal funds from being used to support reproductive healthcare. Localities and states, under Section 306 the bill, could use their own funds for this purpose. But the bill singles out DC, barring even the use of local funds for reproductive healthcare.
"We are outraged by the hypocrisy of members of Congress who promote getting the federal government out of the lives of ordinary Americans, but then seek to expand the government's intrusion when it comes to DC residents," said Ilir Zherka, Executive Director of DC Vote, an advocacy organization that promotes full democracy and equality for DC residents. "This is a question of choice on a grand scale. Everywhere in America, localities can choose how they spend their own money. We demand that DC residents be afforded the same rights to choose the local laws under which they live."
"We stood in silent protest today to dramatize an effort by some in Congress to silence Washingtonians. While this bill impacts DC, the Subcommittee did not invite any Washingtonians to testify. Moreover, by including DC in the bill, the sponsors are telling America that they do not care what DC residents think or have to say. While DC does not have power through voting representatives in Congress, we do have the power of protest. If Congress escalates its efforts to impose their will on DC, we will escalate our protests."
The fight over abortion funding in DC has been ongoing for the last 30 years. From 1980 to 2009, Congress prevented the District of Columbia from using its own locally raised tax dollars to fund reproductive healthcare for Medicaid-eligible women. In 2009, this restriction was lifted by Democrats in Congress. However, the new Republican majority in the 112th Congress has reintroduced the restriction in this bill. For much of our nation's history, members of Congress have imposed their views on DC citizens. In the last 20 years, Congress overturned DC laws regulating AIDS prevention and medical marijuana. Members of Congress and interest groups have also pushed bills that would impact DC's local laws on gun safety, education policy and marriage equality issues.
DC Vote and other organizations draw inspiration from DC Mayor Vincent Gray. Gray recently told activists, "It is time for the people of the District of Columbia to stand up, lie down, box, fight, whatever the case may be, because Frederick Douglass said it best: 'Power concedes nothing without a struggle.'"