WASHINGTON — Today, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs — led by Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) — held a hearing on D.C. statehood. This is only the second time in history the Senate has held a hearing to grant full representation to residents of the District. The nearly 700,000 residents of Washington, D.C. continue to live in the nation's capital with no vote in the House of Representatives and no official voice in the U.S. Senate. But today, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser, and a panel of civil rights and legal experts raised their voices in the Senate to say that it must end now.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“The lack of representation for nearly 700,000 Washington D.C. residents is an ongoing health care and civil rights crisis. The district’s residents, a majority of whom are Black, Latino, and other people of color, face unacceptable, harmful barriers to reproductive health care because they lack a voice in Congress. The House passed H.R. 51 to grant D.C. statehood, and the Senate must immediately follow suit and give District residents the right to participate in our democracy and govern themselves. We thank Chairman Peters for holding today’s hearing and inviting fearless leaders to testify, including Congresswoman Norton.”
Statement from Dr. Laura Meyers, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C.:
“As the oldest and largest provider of reproductive health services in the region, Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, D.C. sees firsthand how lack of D.C. statehood creates health care disparities — worsening the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and systemic racism, denying residents reproductive freedom, and creating real harm. We applaud the House of Representatives for passing H.R. 51. Now the members of the Senate must stand up for the principle of equal representation that is a core tenet of our union. It is time to end the disenfranchisement, and to place those who live in the nation’s capital on equal footing with the rest of the nation by voting for D.C. statehood.”
The residents of Washington, D.C. live and work in the United States, pay federal taxes, and serve in the armed forces. Yet the District, which would be the first state with a plurality of Black residents, cannot self govern. Unlike states, all laws passed by the locally elected D.C. Council and signed by its locally elected mayor are subject to a 30-day congressional review period. Too often, critical policies are stonewalled, or overturned altogether, by members of Congress who do not represent Washingtonians.
Nearly half of District residents are Black and the District’s lack of congressional representation and autonomy contribute to the systemic silencing of Black voices across all areas of policy — including health care — in the U.S. and in the District itself. This is rooted in racism and the need for statehood is a civil rights imperative.
Statehood is also a public health and reproductive freedom issue. Congress passes annual legislation prohibiting D.C. from using locally-raised tax dollars to cover abortion for people enrolled in Medicaid, forcing many people with low incomes to pay out-of-pocket for essential health care services. Medicaid is the largest payer of reproductive health care in the country, and because of centuries of systemic racism, people who use Medicaid are disproportionately Black. Likewise, white D.C. residents have a maternal mortality rate of nearly zero, while Black residents suffer a maternal mortality rate so high that the District has a rate worse than all but four states.
In 2016, 86% of D.C. voters approved a referendum to seek statehood. It’s time for Congress to listen to the people of D.C. and make the District the 51st state.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable sexual and reproductive health care for all people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect, and without judgment, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.