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.