Late-term abortion ban makes Rep. Franks a target of protesters

Opponents of proposed legislation banning late-term abortions in the District of Columbia are taking the fight to the district office of its sponsor.

On Thursday afternoon, voting-rights group DC Vote will stage a rally outside the Glendale, Ariz., office of Rep. Trent Franks (R-Ariz.), who introduced the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in January.

ADVERTISEMENT
The proposed legislation prohibits abortions past the 20-week gestation period solely in the District. Opponents are protesting the bill's singular focus on the District, along with its content.

Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote, told The Hill he expects between 15 and 30 protesters outside Franks's district office Thursday. Many will be coalition partners from women’s-rights groups including NARAL, Planned Parenthood and the National Organization for Women.

Franks will not be at his district office during the rally, but back in Washington.

“The goal is to educate people out there, and whether or not he’s present, I don’t think impacts that,” Zherka said. “We want to ensure that constituents of members of Congress and senators understand how they’re spending their time in D.C.”

Franks's bill, introduced in late January, has already garnered 145 co-sponsors in the House, including Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.).

Describing the effort as “humanitarian and compassionate,” Franks told The Hill in January that the proposed legislation was necessary because late-term abortionists unable to practice elsewhere were coming to the District.
 
“Because of the extreme liberal local government in D.C., there is some indication … that D.C. either is becoming, or has the potential to become, a safe haven for abortionists to do these late-term abortions, who for other reasons have had their licenses revoked in the states and [have] come to the District as a safe haven,” he said.

But Franks has been accused of unfairly targeting the District.

“Neither the Constitution nor Supreme Court interpretations allow disparate treatment of our residents,” wrote Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) in a statement in January.

Franks, chairman of the House Judiciary’s subcommittee on the Constitution, however, has argued the Constitution provides the “absolute seminal authority of the Congress over the District of Columbia.”
 
“There are some people who, if they could make a federalism argument, would, but certainly they can’t in this case,” he previously told The Hill. “There’s no question that it’s within the clear purview and constitutional authority of Congress to have legislative authority over the District.”
 
Norton and DC Vote disagree.

“Instead of spending the recess focused on jumpstarting the economy or attending to the business of his own constituents, Rep. Franks appears to have used his time at home figuring out new ways to undemocratically usurp the local authority of American citizens who did not elect him and who have no way to hold him accountable,” wrote Norton.

In its release Thursday promoting the rally, DC Vote called on Franks to focus on the challenges facing his own district, including “the high foreclosure rate,” rather than “infringing on the rights of Washingtonians.’”

“Our hope is that Franks won’t try to move [the bill],” Zherka concluded. “And if he does, people understand that this is really a fight about local democracy even more so than about abortion.”