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Franks called a 'bully' for bill to limit abortions in D.C.

WASHINGTON – Washington’s delegate to Congress called Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, “a big bully” Tuesday for his proposal to restrict abortions in the District of Columbia.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, made the remarks at a news conference with other city officials decrying what she called the “undisguised bullying tactics of the 112th Congress” when it tries to force its will on the city. The District does not have a voting member of Congress.

“You think the easy way to get something through Congress is to do it to the one jurisdiction that pays federal taxes but has no vote in the House, even on matters affecting their own jurisdiction,” Norton said.

It is the second time this month that Norton has called a news conference on the issue since the May 17 hearing on Franks’ bill, which would ban abortions in the District after 20 weeks of pregnancy. Norton was not allowed to testify at that hearing.

Franks’ office did not return requests for comment Tuesday. But he was quoted by the Washington City Paper earlier this month as saying that the “District of Columbia is not the issue here” – the “fetal pain” that he says starts at 20 weeks is the issue.

Tuesday’s news conference comes less than a week after D.C. residents staged a tongue-in-cheek protest outside Franks’ locked Capitol Hill office.

The protesters came to the office with complaints about potholes, street signs blocked by overgrown trees and other municipal issues. One even came armed with a plunger to represent concerns about sewage overflows into the Anacostia River during floods, concerns they wanted addressed by “Mayor Franks.”

“If he wants to be engaged in our affairs, then be fully engaged,” said James Jones, a spokesman for DC Vote, the organization that planned the protest.

“Essentially it was a tongue-in-cheek protest,” Jones said. “A funny protest, but with a very serious point.”

DC Vote, which works to secure a vote in Congress for the District, does not have a position on abortion, Jones said, it just wants Franks to stay out of the city’s business.

“We feel that this is a very, very unjust action on his part to impose his personal political beliefs on people who don’t support his political beliefs and certainly didn’t put him in office,” Jones said.

Norton said that not only is Franks’ bill “at odds with the views of most residents of the District of Columbia, this agenda is at odds with millions of Americans throughout the United States.”

Speakers at the news conference said they were surprised that Franks, generally a proponent of smaller government, would want to impose a congressional rule on the city.

“Members who want to … violate democratic principles of our country and violate our own local rights are in for a fight,” Norton said. “And we’re going to fight them here, we’re going to fight them where they live.”

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Stephanie Snyder/Cronkite News Service

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, shown in a file photo from a February hearing, has said his bill to restrict abortions in Washington, D.C., is a matter of human rights.