We're happy to report that last Wednesday, the Obama administration criticized a provision in a bill that bans the District of Columbia from using its own local funds to pay for abortion care for low-income women. The White House issued a Statement of Administration Policy, in which it stated that this provision "undermines the principle of states' rights and of D.C. home rule."
For many years, Congress prohibited the use of federal funds allocated to D.C. to pay for abortion services except in cases where the woman's life is endangered or she is a victim of rape or incest. In 1988, Congress unfortunately went one step further by also preventing D.C from using its own locally-raised, non-federal revenues to provide abortion care to its low-income residents enrolled in Medicaid. The ban was lifted in 1993 and 1994 but, in 1995, an anti-choice majority in Congress restored the ban.
In 2009, President Obama submitted a budget that removed the D.C. abortion rider from the appropriations bill and Congress passed a bill without the ban. Unfortunately, in April 2011 during negotiations over the budget, Congress reinstated, without debate, the D.C. abortion ban in order to avert a government shutdown.
Last month, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) tried to remove the abortion ban from the FY 2012 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill, but her amendment failed 20-27. During a heated debate, Rep. Lee spoke passionately for the District and its citizens when she maintained, "[The District] is not a colony, it's the nation's capital...Its residents deserve to be treated fairly and with respect."
We applaud Rep. Lee and members of the House Appropriations Committee who voted to strip the noxious language from the FY2012 bill. We thank the Obama administration for once again making a strong statement against this unjust policy that disenfranchises and marginalizes the District's citizens and denies women access to the health care they need. This fight isn't over!