Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton is right. District citizens should be angry, people of good conscience should be appalled, and members of both parties should oppose H.R. 7 not just because of its limits on a woman’s right to choose but because of its restrictions on the District. The bill is terrible for the District and the country but it won’t become law so should we invest a lot of time and energy into fighting it?
While Delegate Norton rightfully should rail against the bill as an affront to women, the District, and the principle of local control over local affairs, an opportunity is being missed. The District, our leadership and our citizens, too often go into defensive mode against these egregious congressional intrusions. At some point the District needs to turn these moments of adversity into moments of opportunity especially in a case like this where the bill has practically no chance of becoming law. Yes, let’s raise a stink about it but let’s not forget to use it to leverage support for what we want: statehood.
When Rep. Trent Franks offered his original abortion bill last year we in the District and our elected leader in the House should have gone to every single pro-choice member of the House and Senate and said “see this abortion bill, this is another reason why statehood is important. As long as we’re not a state ideologues will continue to offer bills like this. Please don’t just speak out against this horrible bill but stand up for statehood which will make this bill mute in future years.” Instead, we’ve complained and grumbled and to this day even one of the co-chairs of the Pro-Choice Caucus, Diana DeGette (D-CO), is not a cosponsor of the House statehood bill, HR 292.
When Rep. Jim Jordan offered his horrible bill to gut all of the District’s gun laws citizens and our elected leadership shouldn’t have simply spoken out against the bill rather we need to find members of Congress who believe in sensible gun control and tell them to sign to the statehood bill which would make Rep. Jordan’s bill obsolete. But since we haven’t spent enough time and effort doing this even former DC statehood supporters (on the record) such as Sen. Chuck Schumer and Sen. Pat Leahy aren’t cosponsors of the statehood bill in the Senate, S. 132.
Over and over again, we in the District simply go into a defensive mode when Congress wants to use us as their social policy test lab. It’s time that we adjust our strategies and tactics and stop simply fighting against things and start fighting for something. Of all the bills offered by Delegate Norton to make our status in DC better only the statehood bill would make us equal. Legislative autonomy, budget autonomy, some representation in Congress, or even full representation in Congress would not prevent bullies like Rep. Jordan and Franks from offering their bills. Statehood is the only bill that would give us true autonomy, full and equal representation in Congress, and prevent these intrusive bills from being offered.
We’ve been mad for a long time about many things and it has gotten us nowhere. It’s time we follow the adage “don’t get mad, get even” because statehood gets us even.
P.S. And yes, I have made an effort to get members of the Pro-Choice Caucus to join the statehood bill.