Despite the efforts of Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee to allow the District of Columbia to spend its own local tax dollars to fund abortions for low-income women, Republicans succeeded Wednesday in passing a ban on such funding as part of a general spending bill for the federal government.
A long-standing measure known as the Hyde Amendment forbids the use of federal tax dollars for abortion services, but states that accept federal Medicaid funding are allowed to commit their own tax dollars to subsidizing abortions for women enrolled in the program. However, things are different in the District of Columbia, since it is not a state and Congress has oversight of the nation’s capital.
As they did last week during the subcommittee hearing in which the anti-choice rider was offered, activists and members of pro-choice groups tweeted their outrage throughout the mark-up session, using the hashtags #WeAreDC and #StandWithDCWomen. Every year since 1996, Republicans have succeeded in passing this restriction on the District’s spending.
At a mark-up meeting of the full appropriations committee, Democrats, led by ranking member Rep. Nita Lowey (NY), reiterated the objections they raised last week when the measure was included in a mark-up by the House Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, offering an amendment that would have removed the ban on local abortion funding by the D.C. government from the bill. It was voted down, on a largely party-line vote.
One member who voted to strike down the ban was Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL), who recently took an apartment in the District. “I like spending time here but I’m not sure I want to live here,” Quigley said, according to the Washington Post’s Ben Pershing. “I prefer to live in a free state.”
The spending bill also cuts federal funding to the District of Columbia by 6 percent, including funding for the local court system and school construction. It also slashes federal funding for DC’s Tuition Assistance Grant Program in half, a particularly punitive measure for a city with deep pockets of poverty, and only one public university.
According to the Washington Post, Rep. José Serrano (D-NY) summed the committee’s actions on the District’s governance this way:
“What you’re doing here is not just on the issue of abortion,” Serrano said. “It’s a continuation of this behavior for years that says that we are the city council, we are the mayor, and they’re just some forgotten area of the nation that we happen to visit a couple of days a week and then we tell them how to spend their local funds.”
The full House of Representatives will vote on the spending bill later in the current congressional session.