NAACP, Planned Parenthood Back Statehood for D.C. The U.S. Capitol on April 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Stefani Reynolds/Getty)
By Jeffrey Rodack | Thursday, 29 April 2021 01:53 PM
The NAACP and Planned Parenthood, along with hundreds of prominent women of color, on Thursday came out in support of making Washington, D.C., a state.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Dr. Serina Floyd, vice president of Medical affairs/Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of Washington, D.C. and Akosua Ali, president of the NAACP Washington, D.C. branch, all signed the letter.
They maintain statehood for D.C. is an issue of public health and racial equity.
“Washington, D.C.’s more than 712,000 residents pay federal taxes, serve in the armed forces, and outnumber the residents of Wyoming or Vermont,” the letter says.
“Yet, because the District is not a state, Washingtonians are denied the right to representation in Congress. They have no vote on the federal laws and policies that shape their lives. Instead, lawmakers who do not represent Washingtonians use the District’s lack of statehood to play politics with residents’ livelihoods, and with their health.
“Nearly half of District residents are Black. If Washington finally became a state, it would be the first state with a plurality of Black residents. Statehood for the District of Columbia is a racial justice issue — and it’s a public health imperative.
“As the country works to distribute vaccines and end the COVID-19 pandemic — which has devastated Black and Latino communities with higher infection rates, death rates, and job losses — the District’s lack of autonomy has put residents’ health at risk. Large proportions of D.C.’s vaccine allotment has gone to federal agencies and to non-residents while Black residents are going without. While D.C.’s Black residents have accounted for nearly half of COVID-19 cases and nearly 70% of deaths, they’ve received only 37% of vaccines.
“And reproductive health care in the District is in crisis: While white D.C. residents have a maternal mortality rate of almost zero, Black residents suffer a maternal mortality rate so high that the District has the fifth worst overall rate in the country — more than 50% higher than the national average.
“It has always been morally reprehensible to deny the people of Washington, D.C. representation in our democracy. But the triple intersecting crises of COVID-19, systemic racism, and attacks on reproductive health have laid bare the depth of inequity experienced by D.C residents, particularly those of color.”
The House approved a bill last week to make the nation's capital the 51st state.
The Associated Press noted that an identical statehood bill passed the House in 2020, but it died in the then-Republican-controlled Senate. Now, with Democrats in control of both chambers and the White House, Republican senators may resort to a filibuster to kill the statehood bill.