Policy

Democratic Women Clog Rayburn Hallway to Protest Anti-Abortion Bill

Close to 100 people, some waving orange index cards asking, "Where are the women?" crowded the hallway outside the House Judiciary Committee room in the Rayburn Office Building on Wednesday morning.

Among those waving the tiny signs were Democratic committee members Judy Chu of California and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas. They stood alongside female colleagues and abortion rights protesters for a makeshift protest of the markup of a bill to restrict funding for the procedure.

"It's increasingly evident that the only women's agenda that the Republicans have put forward is to take away your health care rights and then tell you to get lost," said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., who criticized the fact that there are no female members of the committee's GOP majority. She vowed to take the issue up with House leadership.

From left, Rep. Judy Chu, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., participate in a news conference outside of the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday to protest the House Judiciary Committee markup of legislation to restrict abortion funding. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

From left, Chu, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Slaughter participate in a news conference outside of the House Judiciary Committee to protest the markup of legislation to restrict abortion funding. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

As she spoke, Capitol Police officers urged the crowd to leave space for a walkway and aides ducked in and out of the Rayburn committee room.

Inside the room, as the clock ticked toward the 11 a.m. start time for the markup, Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte, R- Va., and other members of the committee took their seats. Faint chants of "Where are the women?" could be heard each time the doors opened.

The crowd outside slowly began to slim as Capitol Police officers instructed the protesters from the National Women's Law Center and other groups to form a line at the door and file inside the committee room.

Slaughter, who co-chairs the Pro-Choice Caucus, continued speaking about "the most divisive issue" in Congress to the emptying hallway before eventually working her way inside.

She settled quietly in the front row of the audience, next to Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., around 11:15 a.m.