GOP bill would block D.C. abortion funding
More than 160 House members are backing a bill that would reimpose a ban on the District's using its own money to pay for abortions for low-income women, drawing the ire of D.C. activists and abortion rights supporters.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) and other key members of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus this week introduced the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which is designed to ensure that every federal government agency and program is prohibited from spending tax money to fund abortions. The measure would also reinstate the ban on D.C. abortion funding, which was lifted by President Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress in 2009.
"The new Republican majority has spent its first three weeks preaching about the need to reduce the federal government's power," Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a press release. "Yet the third bill they introduced this Congress prohibits a local jurisdiction from spending its own local funds."
Backers of the bill see it as the best way to ensure that a government-wide ban is enforced.
"It is imperative that the federal government stays out of the business of subsidizing the morally objectionable practice of abortion," said Rep. Joe Pitts (R-Pa.).
But Smith's measure has sparked concern from D.C. home rule advocates.
For the purposes of enforcing the abortion funding ban, the text of the bill says: "The term `Federal Government' includes the government of the District of Columbia." A spokeswoman for D.C. Vote, which advocates for District voting rights, said in a statement that the group "sees this as the beginning of an attempt to take-over DC and undermine or roll back the provisions of the Home Rule Charter."
As of Friday afternoon, Smith's measure had 161 co-sponsors and the public backing of the top GOP leadership. The bill has not yet been scheduled for a vote, though Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) on Thursday called it "one of our highest legislative priorities." Even if it passes the House, however, it may not ever see a vote in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
| January 21, 2011; 4:14 PM ET
Categories: Ben Pershing, Congressional Oversight, Eleanor Holmes Norton
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