Protesters to descend on Rep. Trent Franks’s office over late-term abortion ban

Voting-rights group DC Vote is leading the event, which has been dubbed “Franks DC Constituent Service Day.” An estimated 30 to 70 people are slated to protest at Franks’s office in the Rayburn House office building beginning at noon, according to DC Vote communications director James Jones.

“We’re going to have a substantial crowd,” he told The Hill.

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When asked why the event was scheduled during House recess, when Franks won't be present, Jones noted that protesters intend to send a message to the Arizona lawmaker regardless of whether he is there to receive it.

“We’re still planning to show up whether he’s there or not,” he added.

Calls to Franks’s D.C. office went straight to voicemail Wednesday, and a request for comment was not immediately returned.

At issue is the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which Franks introduced in January. The proposed legislation prohibits abortions past the 20-week gestation period solely in the District. Opponents are protesting the bill's content along with its singular focus on the District. Under the Home Rule Act, Congress holds the ultimate authority over the District's laws and budget.

Franks “says the abortion fight isn't about D.C. autonomy — even though his proposed ban applies only to District of Columbia,” according to a DC Vote statement issued prior to Wednesday’s protest.

“Since Rep. Franks has taken such a keen interest in local D.C. affairs, District of Columbia residents will deliver a host of local municipal concerns to Mr. Franks' office so he can correct these problems,” the release added.

Among the props protesters are said to be bringing are plastic rats, downed parking signs, unfair tickets and pictures of neighborhood potholes, according to the statement.

“If he’s interested in the local affairs of the District ... he has to be available to his constituents,” Jones said.

Franks's bill has already garnered 196 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.
 
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“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.

The proposed bill was discussed during a hearing last week of the House Judiciary subcommittee on the Constitution, of which Franks serves as chairman. But Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) was barred from testifying against the legislation.

Democratic lawmakers and women’s rights groups expressed frustration with the decision disallowing Norton from testifying at the May 17 hearing.

“It is mystifying to me how anyone who claims to be part of a representative body could say no to hearing testimony from the very representative elected by the people who are being targeted by this bill,” Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) wrote in a May 16 statement.

“Congresswoman Norton is an accomplished lawmaker, she has represented the people of Washington in Congress for 21 years, and she has the right to have her voice heard on legislation with damaging health impacts for the women of the District of Columbia,” Boxer added.

Norton publicly released the testimony she was denied the opportunity to offer following the hearing Thursday.

“The bill violates the reproductive rights spelled out in Roe v. Wade, as well as the 14th Amendment right to equal treatment under the law by intentionally discriminating against women who live in the nation’s capital,” she wrote.

“The majority has chosen a cheap and cynical way to make its ideological point during an election year,” Norton added. “We want this subcommittee to know that we will never accept second-class treatment of our citizens.”