House Passes Bill Stopping DC Abortion Funding, Democrats Opposed

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 7, 2011   |   3:23PM   |   Washington, DC

The House of Representatives today approved a short-term  continuing resolution that would fund the federal government for a week and that contains a pro-life rider stopping taxpayer funding of abortions in D.C.

House members voted 247-181 for the measure, with Republicans sgenerally supporting the bill and Democrats opposed.

Both parties and both chambers of Congress are taking very different positions on how to handle the impasse the two parties have over the budget — with Republicans wanting to vote for a pro-life bill Democrats opposed. President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid oppose the House-approved bill over the abortion funding and Obama has pledged to veto it.

Americans United for Life Action president Charmaine Yoest applauded the House and commented them for voting “reinstate the D.C. Hyde Amendment (the Dornan Amendment), which ensures that taxpayers in the District of Columbia are no longer forced to fund the abortion industry with their tax dollars.”

“The most bi-partisan budget cuts available to the Congress involve getting the American taxpayer out of the abortion industry,” she said. “More than 70 percent of Americans don’t want their tax money supporting the profitable abortion industry. I commend the Members of the House for continuing to defend the American taxpayer by reinstating the Dornan Amendment, and I call on the Senate to follow suit to protect Americans from being forced to fund abortions.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List condemned Democrats for standing in the way of stopping abortion funding.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is digging in his heels. He’d rather shut down the government than cut off the flow of taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood,” she said. “It’s not fair that the pro-life American majority has been forced to subsidize Planned Parenthood’s billion dollar abortion business with our hard-earned tax dollars.

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 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.