DC Delegate Norton: ‘Nothing Is More Under Attack Than Reproductive Choice in America Today’

Lauretta Brown | April 2, 2015 | 2:56pm EDT
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District of Columbia Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (CNSNews.com/Penny Starr)

(CNSNews.com) – “Nothing is more under attack than reproductive choice in America today” Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said at an event last week titled “On the Offensive: Protecting Reproductive Choice against State and Federal Attacks,” featuring a panel of abortion advocates at George Washington University Hospital.

Norton and the other panelists complained of the 2011 ban on local abortion funding in the District of Columbia and legislation in Congress such as the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortion after 20 weeks.

“As I look at what’s up in the Congress and the issues that are often discussed either among members or in the Congress or as I think about the states, I do not think I exaggerate when I say nothing is more under attack than reproductive choice in America today,” Norton said in her opening remarks.

Val Vilott, board president of the D.C. Abortion Fund, “an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that makes grants to women and girls in DC, Maryland, and Virginia who cannot afford the full cost of an abortion,” lamented Congress’s ban on the District’s funding of elective abortions for women on Medicaid, which had been lifted in 2009 but re-instated in April 2011.

“During that moment when there was Medicaid, the number of people accessing abortion was huge, and I can tell you now, I don’t have the numbers in front of me, but I promise it outstrips what we can do as a tiny organization, and the bottom line is that we shouldn’t have to, right?” Vilott said.

“It’s a privilege to do this work, but we shouldn’t have to do it, because it’s the job of the government, and it’s the job of the people we elect to take care of its citizens, particularly those most in need and those who are trying to get their lives on a track of their choice,” she argued.

Vilott’s organization has previously made news for providing coat hanger pendants to reward their donors.

An Associated Press report revealed that over the two-year period that the ban was lifted, DC funded 300 abortions.

While the use of federal funding for elective abortions is prohibited by the Hyde Amendment, states can use their local tax dollars to fund elective abortions for women on Medicaid, which 17 states do, although all but four do so pursuant to court order, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Christy Zink, an assistant writing professor and the director of the George Washington University Writing Center, related her story of deciding to abort her second child at nearly 22 weeks because of a brain deformity.

“The decision to have an abortion at almost 22 weeks was made out of love and to spare my son’s pain and suffering. If this bill had been passed before my pregnancy, I would have had to carry to term and give birth to a baby whom the doctors concurred had no chance of a life and would have experienced near constant pain,” Zink said, referencing the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act.

Zink previously told her story in her May 2013 testimony before Congress, where Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) responded with the story of a couple he knew that decided to keep their child despite fetal anomalies.

"Ms. Zink, having my great sympathy and empathy both, I still come back wondering, shouldn’t we wait, like that couple did, and see if the child can survive before we decide to rip him apart?" he asked her at the time.

Another speaker was National Abortion Federation Medical Director Dr. Matthew Reeves, who in addition to his past work performing abortions at Planned Parenthood, had been an attending physician at Magee-Women’s Hospital at University of Pittsburgh in both the gynecology and ultrasound divisions.

“Part of my job there was to read ultrasounds. The other side of my career - and we used to regularly encourage our referring obstetricians to send the patients closer to 20 weeks, because we could see the fetal heart so much better,” he said during the question and answer period in response to a question about why women wait 20 weeks to obtain abortions.

“Everything you see better closer to 18 to 20 weeks particularly the fetal heart, which is another source of common anomaly … so we would actually request that they be sent closer to 20 weeks, because we could see so much better,” he explained. “This can’t be done earlier.”

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