Abortions Would Be Tax-Funded in DC Under Senate Legislation

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Sep 16, 2011   |   3:47PM   |   Washington, DC

Yesterday, the Senate appropriations measure received approval from the Senate Appropriations Committee that funds the federal government and, unlike the measure House Republicans passed in their committees, the Senate bill funds abortions in D.C.

The bill Senate Democrats passed was approved without the Dornan amendment, which is found in the GOP House bill, that prevents taxpayers from paying for hundreds of abortions in the District of Columbia.The ban is currently back in place after President Barack Obama and Democrats removed it following the 2008 elections. However, Democrats and Republicans must again work out how to treat the thorny issue so a bill funding the federal government can go to Obama for his signature.

The abortion funding issue will now become part of the debate between the House and Senate on how to approve a new measure 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 lobbied Senate democrats to keep it out in the upper chamber.

On Monday, the Washington Post reported, 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 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.

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