Earlier this week, Congressional Republicans sent a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray of Washington, DC requesting that he faithfully implement the reinstated ban on taxpayer funding of abortions in the nation’s capital.
Gray has sent a letter back to the pro-life House and Senate GOP lawmakers confirming he intends to put the ban back in place now that Speaker John Boehner pressured top Democrats and pro-abortion President Barack Obama to put the ban in place in exchange for supporting the recent long-term budget deal.
The letter Republicans sent Gray on Tuesday also accused the Gray administration of snubbing previous requests for information on how many taxpayer funded abortions were done during last year, when Democrats successfully removed the abortion funding ban for the District of Columbia for the first time in over a decade. According to a Washington Post report, Gray officials blamed the lack of information on the previous DC mayor, former Mayor Adrian M. Fenty.
“The Mayor has received the letter and is reviewing it,” the Gray letter says. “He wants to thank the Members of Congress for their interest in the health care services provided by the District for its low-income citizens. Since receiving the first letter in January, his staff has been in communication with congressional staff about this issue. Unlike previous Administrations, Mayor Gray will send a response.”
The Post indicates Gray administration officials blamed Fenty for not responding to the previous requests about the abortions that Fenty’s administration started paying for with federal taxpayer funds beginning in August.
Although Gray blames Fenty, a series of questions about abortion funding in D.C. have been posed to the Mayor’s office (during both the Fenty and Gray administrations) on three prior occasions. The questions were directed to Mayor Gray on the second day of his administration (January 3, 2011) and still no response has been issued.
It is not clear whether the Mayor’s office has the information requested and is refusing to provide it, or if the Mayor’s office simply does not know which District agencies are paying for abortion. For the pro-life lawmakers, it is essential that the Mayor identify the District programs or agencies funding abortion, so that he can end the practice in compliance with the reinstated law. Otherwise, the public and elected officials can’t be sure that the reinstated amendment banning abortion funding has been followed.
Some 95 members of the House and 9 from the Senate sent the letter to Mayor Gray urging compliance with the reinstated law and requesting information about abortion funding during the period in which the law was not in place. The last time the policy was reinstated in FY96, taxpayer funded abortions continued in violation of the law until FY98. Based on this experience, pro-life members of Congress are urging Mayor Gray to ensure immediate compliance with the law.
In the letter, Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Utah Republican, and Rep. Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, called on Gray to ensure DC officials “immediately” and “faithfully” implement the new law to ensure “no further taxpayer funds are expended for elective abortion.”
Exercising their oversight role, the pro-life advocates ask Gray’s office to provide Congress with “detailed information about abortion funding in the District during the period in which the D.C. Hyde amendment was not in place” and to do so by May 6.
The letter reads:
With reinstatement of the D.C. Hyde amendment public funding for the destruction of innocent human life will no longer be permitted in D.C. However, history has shown that the District has not always complied with this policy when it has been in place in the past. When this policy was reinstated in FY96, the District continued to fund abortions in violation of the law until the violation was uncovered in FY98.
We do not anticipate that this situation will occur again, but in light of this history, we ask that you provide detailed information outlining what steps you are taking to ensure that no more public funds are used to pay for elective abortion in D.C.
We are also disappointed that repeated requests for information about public funding for abortion in the District of Columbia (D.C.) have been ignored by the D.C. government including your administration. Multiple letters (attached) by Members of Congress have been sent asking whether the city had begun funding elective abortion and requesting information about abortion funding activities. While these questions have gone unanswered, your Director of the Department of Health Care Finance Wayne Turnage was “kind enough to offer a detailed answer” to a Washington Post blogger.
According to Turnage, the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance has paid for “117 elective abortions totaling about $62,000.” We again ask for a prompt reply to all of the questions posed in the attached letters and request that your answers include information regarding the entire time period during which the D.C. Hyde amendment was not in effect.
Republican Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, John Ensign of Nevada, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Roger Wicker of Mississippi, Blunt of Missouri, and David Vitter of Louisiana all signed the letter along with a large number of House Republican lawmakers.
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.”
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.