This blog was written by Anne Anderson and Kathy Chiron of the LWV of DC.
In August 2022, Kansans came out in droves to reject a proposed amendment to the Kansas constitution that would have allowed the state legislature to impose thorough restrictions on abortions. Since the amendment was rejected, women and those who experience pregnancy in that state will retain their constitutional right to make their own personal health decisions.
Kansas showed the power of democracy — the power of people voting and being able to determine how their government acts. Unfortunately, the 700,000 people who live in DC have no such power.
DC Lacks Both Representation and Control
Because DC is not a state, 435 representatives in Congress and 100 senators from the 50 states don’t have to listen to the voters in DC because we didn’t elect them.
We have one non-voting delegate to the House and no voice in the Senate. In addition, DC has no constitution (unlike Kansas and all other states) that affords rights and protections to its citizens. Although we have the Home Rule Act, which provides for an elected Mayor and District Council, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 17 of the US Constitution states that Congress exercises authority over all our local affairs.
The governance of the District of Columbia falls under the purview of US House and Senate committees. These bodies review all DC legislation before it can become law and can modify or even overturn any legislation we pass. Rarely have these committees consulted with us about what we want or need.
Abortion Justice in DC
In fact, Congress recently passed a budget bill that prevents DC from using locally raised taxes to help low-income women access the care they need. While the 50 states along with DC cannot use federal funds, such as Medicaid, to fund abortion care except in cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment of the pregnant person, DC is the only place that does not have the autonomy to decide whether or not it wants to use its own locally raised Medicaid funds to help pay for abortions.
Not only do the people of DC rely on abortion care, but so do residents from nearby states with abortion bans. According to the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF), 69% of abortions in DC are for out-of-state residents. Further, 90% of DCAF's callers are from DC, Maryland, and Virginia, and 10% are from other states. In the aftermath of the Dobbs ruling, the DC Council is considering legislation that would declare DC a “sanctuary city” for those coming from states where abortion is banned. Yet because Congress has oversight power over DC, future restrictions are still possible.
Until DC becomes a state and has, like all other states, the ability to make its own laws and policies, we remain subject to the oversight of Congress.
If the political winds blow against the forces of liberty and freedom to make private personal health decisions, Congress may decide to impose extreme reproductive rights bans on Washington, DC. Then it won’t matter how many of us come out to vote to protect our rights, because we are not a state. Whatever Congress decides for DC is what the 700,000 folks in DC will have to live with.
To Protect Our Rights, DC Must Become a State
This travesty can be solved by admitting the commercial and residential parts of DC as the state of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, and creating a smaller federal district that will still be our nation’s capital. The House has passed the Washington DC Admission Act twice, and 45 cosponsors have joined Senator Carper (DE), the sponsor of the bill in the Senate. It’s time for this bill to become law.
We need your participation in fixing this hole in our democracy. Full rights for DC means a Congress that represents all of our country’s citizens. Until we are the State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth, we must rely on each other to make sure your representatives and senators know that DC Statehood is critical to the health and well-being of our democracy. Let’s get this done!
The Latest from the League
Without statehood, D.C. residents aren’t full citizens. We deserve to join the Union as a state whose 712,000+ people live, work, play, and taxes like everyone else.
WASHINGTON— Today the League of Women Voters of the United States President Dr. Deborah Turner and CEO Virginia Kase Solomón issued the following joint statement in response to President Biden’s executive order on reproductive health:
On June 24, 2022, the United States Supreme Court released its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, overturning the constitutional right to abortion. In so doing, they turned back the clock, looking almost exclusively at reproductive rights from the lens of the mid-1800s and earlier to determine whether the Constitution confers a right to abortion.