DC Abortion Ban Lifted by the House of Representatives; Effort Moves to Senate

Jodi Jacobson

Tonight, the House of Representatives passed a spending bill, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, that included a provision for lifting the ban on Washington, D.C.’s use of local funds to pay for abortion services for low-income women.

Tonight, the House of Representatives passed a spending bill, the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Act, that included a provision for lifting the ban on Washington, D.C.’s use of local funds to pay for abortion services for low-income women.

The House action is in keeping with President Obama’s budget recommendation to remove the restrictions on use of local funds, and was achieved in part through pressure on Congress to allow the District–the budget and many of the laws of which are subject to Congressional approval–to exercise home rule.

Efforts to lift the ban now move to the Senate.

Pro-choice leaders applauded news of the House action to remove the ban, but urged the Senate to ensure passage in that chamber.

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Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) said in a statement:

“Today, the House took an important step toward lifting this ban – thereby allowing the District to make its own decisions about the use of it own funds to provide abortion health services for low-income residents.

“Restrictions on public funding for abortion disproportionately affect women of color, a quarter of whom in DC are living in poverty and are more likely to rely on public funding for basic medical services. The time needed to save money, if indeed they even can, often results in poor women experiencing delays in obtaining an abortion. The greater the delay in obtaining an abortion, the less safe the procedure becomes. Those women who are unable to secure the funds can be denied affordable services altogether.

Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, commended pro-choice champions in the House for their efforts to remove the ban.

Keenan praised the work of Rep. Elearnor Holmes Norton, the representative of the District of Columbia, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.), and other pro-choice leaders for standing up to anti-choice attacks against the bill.

“Congress doesn’t tell any other state or local jurisdiction how to use
its local revenue," said Keenan, ‘so it’s past time to end this unfair and
discriminatory policy that usurps the D.C. government’s decision-making
authority.”

"The final vote tally included lawmakers who do not support legal abortion but understood the vote was an issue of home rule for D.C. residents," said a statement by NARAL.

"Similar to the process in the House," continued NARAL," last week the Senate Appropriations Committee, under the leadership of Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin, rejected an anti-choice amendment to reinsert the D.C. ban. The Senate will take up that bill in the near future."

The National Women’s Law Center also called on the Senate to similarly defeat efforts to impose this funding restriction on DC residents.”

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