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When My Representative Votes Tomorrow, He'll be Representing Me. But Who Is Representing Washington, D.C.?

We went to speak out against policies that would allow the government to interfere in access to reproductive health care and women's private, medical decision-making.
Kat Noel,
New York Civil Liberties Union
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April 13, 2011

Last Thursday, a full busload of New York Civil Liberties Union staff and card-carrying members made our way to the Stand Up for Women’s Health Rally and Lobby Day in D.C. We went to speak out against policies that would allow the government to interfere in access to reproductive health care and women’s private, medical decision-making.

The most striking thing for me about the day was that it was the first time I felt like I really had a voice in Washington. I have participated in lobby days with my elected representatives in the New York State Legislature many times and enjoyed the experience. But with regards to my elected representatives in Washington, I’ve always felt they were disconnected from my wants, needs and concerns. But I didn’t feel that way after meeting with my congressman, Edolphus Towns.

After the rally on the national mall, about 30 constituents filed into Congressman Towns’ office. Rep. Towns asked us all to introduce ourselves and explain why protecting women’s access to health care was important to us. Some people’s comments were quite striking. For example, one person from my neighborhood shared that the first funeral he ever went to was back in the late 1960s when his favorite teenage cousin passed away from complications related to a back alley abortion. As a person who remembered the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, my neighbor expressed disbelief and dismay that women’s access to basic health care is still under attack. As we went around the room giving our names, the cross streets we live on and what brought us there that day, I realized we were all strangers who live a few blocks away from each other but who came to the nation’s capital for the same reason: to let our representative know what he can do to stand up for reproductive health.

Moved by our stories, Rep. Towns told us how difficult it can be serving as a progressive member of Congress this year when conservative members are in the majority. Rep. Towns said that the experiences and opinions of his constituents are what he uses as “fuel” to motivate him during his 15th term. Being in that room, I was proud to be amongst neighbors who believe standing up for reproductive freedom is a priority. I’m also proud to have a representative who is committed to standing up for women’s health.

Unfortunately, residents of our nation’s capitol, Washington D.C., will not represented by a voting member of Congress when the House votes tomorrow to strip the District of Columbia of its ability to use its own local funds to provide abortion care for low-income women. Members of Congress will once again impose their own ideology, morality and religious beliefs on the District’s predominantly African-American population.

House Speaker John Boehner’s success in using federal budget negotiations and threatening a federal government shutdown to hamstring the District’s self-governance is shameful. The D.C. abortion ban tramples on low-income women’s ability to access abortion services, and utterly disregards the needs of the impacted community. When it comes to abortion politics in our nation’s capitol, the ability of local elected leaders to decide to spend their own locally raised funds on abortion care for poor women was all too easily traded away in budget negotiations.

Please join me in telling Congress to refuse to reinstate the District of Columbia abortion ban by taking action today.

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