Back Off DC Women Already!

Yesterday, a House committee voted down an amendment offered by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-Ill.) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) that would have allowed the District of Columbia to use its own local funds to pay for abortion care for low-income women.

It's bad enough that Congress uses the Hyde Amendment to deny abortion coverage to women who rely on the government for their health care. But the House Appropriations Committee feels the need to go one step further and prevent the District of Columbia from using its locally-raised revenues to provide abortion care to women enrolled in Medicaid.

Maybe it's because I live in D.C., but this ban seems particularly offensive.

First of all, decisions about whether to continue a pregnancy must be made by women and their family members, and not by politicians. We should respect a woman's ability to make important, personal health care decisions based on what is best for her and her family. Period.

Second, of the Washingtonians whose access to abortion care is restricted, the vast majority—94 percent—are women of color. This ban only worsens the health disparities that women of color face and could bar many from accessing safe, legal health care from a high-quality medical provider.

Third, with this vote, the Committee just completely ignored the will of the people of D.C.. Decades ago, Congress passed the Home Rule Act, because they realized that the citizens of the District of Columbia had been denied the most basic privilege enjoyed by all other Americans: the right to elect the leaders of their local government. With home rule, Washington's residents gained the right to elect their own mayor and council, which was empowered to legislate over areas of local concern.

But this abortion ban is antithetical to the spirit of home rule. It disenfranchises and marginalizes D.C.'s leaders and residents. Instead, non-resident members of Congress impose their own ideology, morality or religious belief on D.C. and utterly disregard the needs or desires of the broader community or those directly impacted.

And what really irks us D.C. folks is that those who seek to negate the will of the District's residents or leaders aren't accountable to the people of the District. What they couldn't do in their own home districts, they do with impunity against us. Shame on them.

So bravo to Rep. Mike Quigley, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) for championing the amendment. And bravo to the lawmakers who voted for the Lee-Quigley amendment!

This fight isn't over. Please #StandWithDCWomen. Because #WeAreDC.

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