News Abortion

House Votes to Bar D.C. From Using Its Own Funds to Assist Low-Income Women in Need of Abortion Care

Jodi Jacobson

The "small government" Republican and Tea Party majority in the House are seeking to put their big, intrusive footprint on the necks of District residents by inserting an amendment to the 2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill extending that ban for another year.

For the past two years, D.C. residents came as close as they’ve been in a long time to having the same rights and power guaranteed to every other citizen of the United States.  Though District residents retain the dubious distinction of “taxation without representation,” and though President Obama never made a priority of Home Rule even when he might have done so, the District did retain control over how local funds were spent, including to assist poor women seeking abortion care to be able to afford it.

The results of the 2010 election changed all that.  As part of the down-to-the-wire 2011 budget negotiations that threatened to shut down the government, D.C. lost its right to use its own tax dollars to fund abortions for low-income women.

Now, the “small government” Republican and Tea Party majority in the House are seeking to put their big, intrusive footprint on the necks of District residents by inserting an amendment to the 2012 Financial Services Appropriations bill extending that ban for another year.  The anti-choice majority in the House along with Senate counterparts also appear ready to harrass District Mayor Vincent Gray for information on whether DC is “faithfully” implementing the law.

The District government itself does not impose any major types of abortion restrictions—such as waiting periods, mandated parental involvement or limitations on publicly-funded abortion–often found in other states. Contrary to claims made by the anti-choice movement, access to abortion does not necessarily lead to an increase in the number performed.  In 2008, for example, an estimated 4,450 women obtained abortions in District of Columbia. Between 2005 and 2008, the rate of abortions in the District declined 45 percent.

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The lack of restrictions on women’s ability to exercise self-determination with regard to their health, their lives, and their futures is, apparently, too much for the House GOP to bear.

News Family Planning

House GOP Votes Against D.C. Reproductive Health Bill

Christine Grimaldi

The Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act protects employees from being fired for their choices to use birth control, have a baby, or obtain an abortion.

Republicans led the U.S. House of Representatives in a late Thursday vote to repeal a District of Columbia law that protects employees from retaliation over their reproductive health-care choices.

The 223-192 vote occurred on an amendment to the fiscal year 2017 financial services appropriations bill, which subsequently passed the House that night. The amendment’s sponsor, Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL), claimed that the amendment to repeal the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) would protect employers’ religious liberty.

Only two Democrats, Reps. Dan Lipinski (IL) and Collin Peterson (MN), voted in favor of the amendment.

RHNDA amends the District’s Human Rights Act, which deals with employment discrimination. It adds that an employer cannot discriminate in “compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” because of an employee’s or a dependent’s “reproductive health decision making, including a decision to use or access a particular drug, device or medical service.” In other words, the law protects employees from being fired for their choices to use birth control, have a baby, or have an abortion.

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NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue condemned the vote.

“A woman should never fear being fired for her decision about whether, when, and with whom to grow her family. That decision should be a woman’s alone and not decided for her by an employer or by Congress,” Hogue said in a statement. “Every single person who voted for this should be ashamed, regardless of which side of the aisle you sit on.”

Two dozen Republicans voted against repeal, but they are the outliers in a party that has consistently attacked the law since the Washington, D.C., council unanimously enacted it at the end of 2014. Republicans last year sought to overturn RHNDA through a resolution of disapproval they pushed through the House and another attempt through the budget process.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), a non-voting congressional delegate, vowed to again block Republicans at every turn.

“Last year, I was able to remove the harmful rider that blocked RHNDA after it was included in the House bill, and I will be waging another vigorous fight this year,” she said in a statement.

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member on the House Appropriations Committee, released a separate statement expressing Democrats’ opposition to the amendment.

“Under the guise of ‘religious liberty,’ this amendment is an unprecedented intrusion into D.C. residents’ personal health choices, and cannot be a part of any final [a]ppropriations law,” she said.

News Politics

Trump’s First Congressional Endorsement Goes to Candidate Opposed by Anti-Choice Groups (Updated)

Ally Boguhn

Anti-choice groups targeted Rep. Renee Ellmers' seat after the North Carolina representative reportedly spoke out against language in the House of Representatives' 2015 20-week abortion ban.

UPDATE, June 8, 8:35 a.m.: Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) lost her campaign for re-election Tuesday night, leaving Rep. George Holding (R-NC) as the Republican candidate for the state’s 2nd congressional district. Ellmers’ loss makes her the first member of the GOP to lose their seat in Congress.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump made his first congressional endorsement over the weekend, backing U.S. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) despite anti-choice groups’ attempts to unseat the congresswoman in the state’s Tuesday primary.

“Hello, this is Donald Trump and I’m calling to personally ask you to vote for Renee Ellmers,” said Trump in a robocall released Saturday on behalf of Ellmers. “Renee was the first congresswoman to endorse me, and she really was terrific and boy, is she a fighter.”

“I need her help in Washington so we can work together to defeat ISIS, secure our border, and bring back jobsand frankly, so many other things. And Renee knows how to do it. She gets it,” continues Trump in the ad. “And together, we will make America great again.”

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Anti-choice groups targeted Ellmers’ seat after the North Carolina representative reportedly spoke out against language in the House of Representatives’ 2015 20-week abortion ban, which would have required rape victims to formally report their assault to police in order to be exempted from the law. Ellmers expressed concerns about that aspect of the measure during a closed-door meeting on the legislation, according to Politico.

Ellmers later told Bloomberg Politics that she supported a later version of the abortion ban with revised language. Overall, the congresswoman has been consistently anti-choice during her time in office.

In February, a federal district panel ordered North Carolina to redraw the state’s congressional map after it found evidence of unconstitutional racial gerrymandering. The new lines shifted much of Rep. George Holding’s (R-NC) current district to Ellmers’ district, leading Holding to challenge his GOP colleague.

“We helped bring Renee Ellmers to Washington and now we want to send her home,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of anti-choice group Susan B. Anthony List, told the Washington Examiner for a report published Monday. “She was exactly the type of candidate our organization exists to support, both on the campaign trail and in Congress, but she failed us.”

Ellmers’ campaign contends that the candidate has been consistently anti-choice during her time in Congress. “She never once voted against a pro-life bill,” Patrick Sebastian, senior adviser for her campaign, told Roll Call in May. “It’s absurd, honestly.”

Susan B. Anthony List’s decision to support Ellmers’ challenger, Holding, marks the first time the group has ever endorsed a man over a “pro-life woman,” reports NPR. The group is reportedly spending about $50,000 on the race, and “is sending more than 200 canvassers to knock on 12,500 doors by Tuesday and tell voters,” about Ellmers’ record on abortion, according to the Examiner

The anti-choice group has already pledged to back Trump in the presidential election, despite having spent months publicly questioning whether the candidate’s opposition to abortion was extreme enough.

National Right to Life Victory Fund, an anti-choice super PAC, also took aim at Ellmers in an email to supporters last week. “Nothing has the potential to do more damage to pro-life efforts than people who run as pro-life candidates back home in their pro-life districts and then stab the babies in the back when they come to DC and work against pro-life efforts,” asserted the super PAC, going on to note that the organization would be “working hard in the mail, on the phone, and on the internet to see that pro-life traitor Renee Ellmers is defeated and pro-life champion George Holding wins the June 7th Republican primary.”

Trump’s endorsement of Ellmers seemingly signals yet another disconnect between the Republican candidate and those who oppose abortion. As Rewire has previously reported, Trump has faced “months of criticism by Republicans and those who oppose abortion rights. Despite the GOP presidential candidate’s promises to defund Planned Parenthood and nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade and criminalize abortion, Trump has come under fire for suggesting that abortion patients should be punished for undergoing the procedure, should it become illegal.”