House Committee Backs Keeping D.C. Abortion Funding Ban

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 27, 2011   |   12:03PM   |   Washington, DC

A U.S. House Committee last week voted for legislation funding the District of Columbia that retains a ban on taxpayer funding of abortions in the nation’s capital — a key provision Speaker John Boehner secured earlier this year.

The House Appropriations Committee considered the Financial Services Appropriations bill which contains several pro-life funding limitation amendments, including the ban on abortion funding in Washington, D.C. During the debate on the bill, pro-abortion Rep. Barbara Lee, a California Democrat, offered an amendment to take the ban out of the bill, but members of the panel defeated the amendment along party lines — with Republican opposing the pro-abortion amendment and Democrats supporting it.

The House Appropriations Committee eventually approved the bill, with the ban intact, by a vote of 27-21. When the measure gets to the House floor, Lee is expected to again proposed the amendment to force Americans to pay for abortions in the nation’s capital, though Republicans are expected to have enough votes to defeat it. A vote on the bill on the House floor is expected in mid-July.

Because it is a budget amendment and not federal law, the D.C. abortion funding ban has to be renewed annually.

The ban was the subject of debate during the massive budget fight between Republicans and President Barack Obama and Senate Democrats this April. Speaker John Boehner negotiated a compromise budget that reinstated the ban on abortion funding in D.C. The mayor of the District promised to implement the ban, but pro-life advocates on Capitol Hill, as of mid-June, informed that they are still looking for confirmation that it was implemented.

Although the D.C. abortion funding ban has been in place in the past, Republican lawmakers sent a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray telling him that he needs to implement it. They said, “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.,” the lawmakers added in their letter months ago to Gray. From what sources tell, Gray has not yet issued a response.

When Democrats reinstated abortion funding after taking over both houses of Congress, the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance paid for 117 elective abortions totaling about $62,000.

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.”

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

The Dornan Amendment has 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.

In February, the group Live Action caught on undercover video footage showing D.C. Planned Parenthood staff ignoring alleged sex traffickers who wanted to arrange abortions for their victims.