FACT CHECK: Did Ilhan Omar Vote Against A Bill Making Female Genital Mutilation A Felony?

Emily Larsen | Fact Check Reporter

Many people said on Twitter recently that Democrat Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota state representative newly elected to the U.S. House, voted against a Minnesota bill that would have imposed stiffer penalties for female genital mutilation (FGM).

“Ilhan Omar voted against a bill criminalizing female genital mutilation,” one user said Nov. 23.

“Progressive darling Ilham Omar voted AGAINST a bill to ban female genital mutilation,” another user tweeted Nov. 22.

“Omar has offered cover for FGM and those who practice it. She voted against a bill in Minnesota that would make committing female genital mutilation a felony and parents would then lose custody of the children,” tweeted another user Nov. 21.

Verdict: False

Omar had concerns about the bill, but she expressed opposition to FGM and voted in favor of the bill.

Fact Check:

People claimed that Omar voted against a bill addressing FGM after Twitter suspended conservative activist Laura Loomer Nov. 21 for a tweet that said that Omar supported the practice.

“Isn’t it ironic how the twitter moment used to celebrate ‘women, LGBTQ, and minorities’ is a picture of Ilhan Omar? Ilhan is pro Sharia Ilhan is pro- FGM Under Sharia, homosexuals are oppressed & killed,” Loomer said in the tweet.

A 2017 Minnesota House bill would have expanded penalties for FGM, the process of deliberately cutting or injuring female genitals (sometimes called female circumcision or cutting), and made it a felony for parents or guardians to allow the procedure on their child.

The practice is most common in African countries and parts of the Middle East and Asia. In Somalia, 98 percent of women aged 15 to 49 had undergone FGM, according to 2006 data cited in a U.N. report.

Omar, the first Somali-American elected to Congress and one of the first Muslim women to be elected, called FGM “heinous” in a committee hearing for the bill. But she voiced concerns about the bill and thought that parents should be charged under the laws already in place. Omar referenced a case in which one of two Minnesota girls who underwent the procedure in February 2017 was allowed to return back with her parents.

“What I would have liked to have been done is for us to advocate for their parents to be charged with the laws that are currently in place. What I would have liked for this bill to actually propose is what kind of level of charges that we would like to see brought up,” she said in the committee hearing. “What I don’t want us to do is to try to create laws because we want to be able to get in the media, and I don’t want us to create laws because there is a flashy headline.”

Existing Minnesota law makes it a felony to perform FGM, but does not directly address the actions of the parents. The Minnesota House Research Department, however, said that parents could be charged with the felonies of aiding and abetting the crime of FGM, or with neglect or endangerment of a child. Congress outlawed the practice of FGM federally in 1996, imposing penalties on those who perform the procedure.

Despite her concerns, Omar voted in favor of referring the bill to another committee and voted in favor of its passage on the Minnesota House floor. The bill passed in the House, but did not receive a vote in the Minnesota Senate.

A confusing sentence in a local Star-Tribune story about the House vote led to false claims that Omar voted against the bill. “The bill won support from all but four of the 128 House members who voted, including Rep. Ilhan Omar, the country’s first Somali-American legislator,” it read.

The Clarion Project, a non-profit that “educates the public about the dangers of radical Islam,” cited the Star-Tribune report in an Aug. 8 post that claimed Omar rejected the bill. “In 2017, Omar rejected Muslim reform-driven efforts against gender discrimination and female genital mutilation,” it said. “The bill won support from all but four of the 128 House members who voted. Omar was one of those four.”

Clarion later updated the post to remove the reference to the vote, but it still says that Omar rejected the efforts.

A Nov. 20 Washington Examiner opinion piece also misinterpreted the Star-Tribune report. “Minnesota just elected a congresswoman who was one of only four state representatives to vote against a state law that made FGM a felony. Her name is Ilhan Omar,” it read. The Examiner issued a correction after an inquiry from The Daily Caller News Foundation.

FrontPage Magazine, the online journal of the David Horowitz Freedom Center that “combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values,” also misreported Omar’s vote in an Aug. 23 post. “Ilhan Omar voted against a bill that made it a felony for parents to subject daughters to female genital mutilation,” it said, citing The Clarion Project.

Omar has addressed policies about FGM on Twitter in the past. “Survivors of sexual assault, FGM and child abuse suffer from PTSD,” she said in a May 2017 tweet. “FGM is outlawed in every country, the [U.S.] has one of the most aggressive drivers advanced laws in the books already,” Omar tweeted in March.

A federal judge ruled Nov. 20 that a federal ban on FGM was unconstitutional on the grounds that Congress did not have the power to enact the statute. “FGM is a ‘local criminal activity’ which, in keeping with longstanding tradition and our federal system of government, is for the states to regulate, not Congress,” the ruling said. A spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said that the office is reviewing the case before deciding whether to appeal.

The Clarion Project and FrontPage Magazine did not respond to requests for comment.

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Emily Larsen

Fact Check Reporter