Obama Rejects Republican Short-Term CR Cutting DC Abortion Funds

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 5, 2011   |   3:02PM   |   Washington, DC

President Barack Obama said today he would not sign a Republican short-term continuing resolution that reinstates a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions in the nation’s capital.

At a surprise appearance in the White House briefing room with reporters, Obama said, “We’ve already done that twice,” concerning approving a new short-term resolution. Some sort of bill is needed as the current continuing resolution funding the federal governemnt expires on Friday.

“That is not a way to run a government,” Obama said. “I can’t have our agencies making plans based on two-week budgets.”

“There is no reason why we should not get an agreement,” Obama said. “At a time when the economy is just beginning to grow, the last thing we need is a disruption that’s caused by a government shutdown.”

But Republicans and Democrats have not been able to reach an agreement following Senate Democrats voting to defeat a pro-life budget bill House Republicans approved that revokes taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood and includes pro-life riders like the D.C. abortion funding ban. In a statement following the private White House meeting earlier Tuesday, Boehner had said there was no deal and he promised House Republicans “will not be put in a box” of accepting options they refuse to endorse.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor added, “The White House has increased the likelihood of a shutdown.”

In the short-term bill Obama rejected, House Republicans included language that would put the ban back in place that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions in the nation’s capital.

While most of the pro-life attention to the congressional budget battles has focused on the effort to yank taxpayer funding for the Planned Parenthood abortion business, the long-term budget bill the House passed and Senate rejected also contained numerous pro-life riders addressing other instances of abortion funding or using taxpayer dollars to bankroll pro-abortion groups.

When House Republicans put forward HR 1, the continuing resolution bill to fund the federal government for FY2011, they put language in the legislation to restore the ban on taxpayer funding of abortions in the District of Columbia that Obama and House Democrats overturned when they controlled the chamber. Since the defeat of HR 1, pro-life organizations have clamored for a restoration of the D.C. abortion funding ban and, now, it has returned.

On Monday night, House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers introduced H.R. 1363, a one week Continuing Resolution to continue funding the government through April 15. This summary of H.R. 1363lists the funding and policy changes contained in H.R. 1363 including the following regarding the Dornan Amendment on D.C. abortion funding:  “The CR also includes a provision preventing both federal and local funds from being used to provide abortions in the District of Columbia.” 

This language would restore the Dornan amendment to ensure that no congressionally appropriated funds (whether locally or federally generated) may pay for abortion in the District of Columbia.  The good news for pro-life advocates is that the inclusion of the Dornan Amendment in the one-week continuing resolution ensures it remains in place to prohibit abortion funding in the nation’s capital for the rest of the year.

The policy was in place from 1996-2009. Then, Democrats initially approved an omnibus spending bill lifting the 13-year-long ban on directly paying for abortions in the nation’s capital and Obama eventually signed the measure.

National Right to Life Committee legislative director Douglas Johnson wrote to members of Congress at that time urging them to oppose the bill because of the abortion funding in the District of Columbia and said the number of abortions in the nation’s capital would increase by 1,000 annually because of the taxpayer funding.

“The National Right to Life Committee urges you to vote against passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010 (H.R. 3288), because the bill would lift a longstanding prohibition on the use of funds appropriated by Congress to pay for elective abortions in the District of Columbia,” the group said in a letter LifeNews.com obtained.

“Prior to the initial adoption of the congressional ban, public funds were used to pay for over 4,000 abortions annually in the nation’s capital,” Johnson noted back then. “If the pro-life policy is lifted by enactment of H.R. 3288, public funding of elective abortion will resume, and the predictable result will be that the number of abortions performed will increase, probably by around 1,000 per year.”

Despite the defeat, Democrats have historically agreed to the language stopping taxpayer funding of abortions, also known as the DC Hyde Amendment.

The Dornan Amendment has even been included in numerous Appropriations bills supported by members on both sides of the abortion debate.  Notably, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, who backs abortion, included the DC Abortion Funding ban in his own legislative text twice since Democrats gained control of the Senate in 2007.  President Clinton signed this policy into law six times and President Obama signed the policy into law for FY09 and voted to continue the policy twice while serving in the U.S. Senate.