Lack of Congressional Representation for District Residents Disenfranchises Large Population of Black Voters & Helps Uphold Systemic Racism in U.S.
Washington, DC — Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51) — historic legislation designed to admit the District of Columbia as a state. More than 700,000 people call the nation’s capital home — a population larger than that of some states. They pay federal taxes and serve in the armed forces, but are denied a voice in the U.S. Senate and a vote in the House of Representatives. What’s more, unlike any other jurisdiction in the country, all laws passed by D.C.’s council and signed by its mayor are subject to a 30-day congressional review period. This unique lack of autonomy and representation has led to increased and unacceptable barriers to health care and other essential needs for District residents.
Nearly half of District residents are Black and it would be the first state with a plurality of Black residents. The District’s lack of congressional representation and local 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. The residents of Washington, D.C. deserve equal rights and they deserve to be heard — the Senate must pass this critical legislation immediately.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America
“As our country faces the dual public health crises of systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is abundantly clear why representation matters — including in our nations’ capital. Our health and lives are at risk, and we cannot allow the voices of those in Washington, D.C., especially Black residents, who have been systematically silenced and oppressed, to be left out of the conversation. Denying the District statehood disenfranchises hundreds of thousands of people and prevents them from being heard on critical issues like reproductive and sexual health care, police violence, and other policy areas that affect their day-to-day lives. We applaud the House of Representatives for today’s historic vote, and urge the Senate to take up this bill promptly to correct this centuries-old wrong."
Statement from Dr. Laura Meyers, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC
“Along with my over 700,000 neighbors, as a DC resident, I pay federal taxes and yet do not have voting representation in Congress. The time for change is long overdue. Amid the country’s struggle to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism, D.C. statehood could not be more imperative. There is no good reason why 700,000 Americans are disenfranchised and kept from having a voice at the table, as the nation works to resolve centuries of racial oppression. District residents, not Congress, should decide on what happens in our city, whether that has to do with policing, sexual and reproductive health care, gun violence, or any of the other policy issues states have the autonomy to address."
Congressional oversight over the District has allowed members of Congress to treat it as a testing site for many harmful restrictions over the years. Congress consistently passes annual legislation prohibiting D.C. from using locally-raised tax dollars to cover abortion care for people enrolled in Medicaid, forcing many to pay out-of-pocket for essential health care services. Due to a history of structural racism, Black people are more likely than whites to depend on Medicaid for health care — this D.C. Medicaid policy is part of the long history of demonizing Black women for their personal reproductive health care choices.
The District’s lack of autonomy also invites overreach from the executive branch. Earlier this month, the administration activated the military and sent troops to Washington, D.C. to intimidate people protesting systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence against Black people. The District’s locally elected mayor was powerless to stop this deployment — the city’s occupation lasted several days. Planned Parenthood Federation of America stands in solidarity with protestors, especially Black women, who have been putting themselves on the front lines of the fight for freedom and justice, and who have been at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement. The fight for statehood is an integral part of this fight for justice.
This egregious wrong cannot continue. District residents are demanding their rights; 86% percent of D.C. voters approved a 2016 referendum to seek statehood. We must listen. The only way to guarantee the residents of the District of Columbia receive equal representation and control their own political destiny is to admit the District as the 51st state.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young 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. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.