Battle to Stop Tax Funded Abortions in DC Picks Up Again

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 13, 2011   |   6:23PM   |   Washington, DC

It’s back:  the recurring battle to prevent taxpayer funding of abortions in the nation’s capital has returned now that Congress is once again looking at how to fund the federal government.

The previous Continuing Resolution stopped funding abortions as it funded the government for months but now lawmakers have to wage the fight again to determine whether the funding ban will remain in place.

The deal pro-life Speaker John Boehner arranged with Democrats in April allowed for a pro-life victory in the reinstatement of the ban on funding abortions in the District of Columbia, which is projected to save the lives of hundreds of unborn children annually who may have otherwise become victims of taxpayer-funded abortions.

The House -approved version of the new bill that funds the D.C. budget for 2012 contains the abortion funding ban but abortion advocates are hoping to get the Senate to reject the ban there. The Washington Post indicates a Senate appropriations subcommittee will take up the bill Wednesday and the full Appropriations Committee will debate the bill Thursday.

The text of the Senate version of the bill has not yet been released but senators could propose an amendment to add or remove the ban depending on whether it is included.

On Monday, the Post reports, the top abortion activists in the House — Reps. Louise Slaughter of New York and Diana DeGette of Colorado — sent a letter to senators signed by 59 pro-abortion House members urging the funding ban to be eliminated.

“The autonomy of the District is necessary for democratic self-governance, and Congress should be mindful not to violate District residents’ rights to control their own tax dollars,” the letter says. “By failing to permit the District of Columbia to spend local government funds on abortion, we are sending the message that low-income women should not have access to the same medical services that middle- and upper-income women can access.”

Meanwhile, the newspaper says the lobbying group DC Vote is running a campaign targeting Sens. Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, and Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat, asking them to support removal of the ban.

The DC abortion funding ban Boehner restored puts back into place the Dornan amendment to ensure that no congressionally appropriated funds (whether locally or federally generated) may pay for abortion in the District of Columbia.  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 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.

ACTION: Contact your two U.S. senators and ask them to vote to stop taxpayer-funding of abortions in the District of Columbia.