As in many years past, a proposed House spending bill for D.C. would fully ban any spending on abortions within the city.
The bill unveiled on Tuesday by a House Appropriations subcommittee provides D.C. with $636 million in federal funds while laying out how the city can and cannot spend the money. The bill prohibits the use of federal funds for needle exchange programs and the city's nascent medical marijuana program, while more broadly forbidding city officials from putting local or federal funds towards abortions for low-income women.
Congressional Republicans have often used spending bills for D.C. to propose controversial social policies or limit D.C. initiatives; after a 1998 referendum allowing medical marijuana, Congress moved to prohibit the city from implementing the program until almost a decade later.
Abortion is often a target for social conservatives on Capitol Hill—Republicans regularly move to prohibit D.C. from spending any money on helping pay for them, and last year the House voted for a bill that would have banned all abortions within city limits after 20 weeks.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and D.C. voting rights advocates have long fought to keep such "riders" off of spending bills, and in 2009 claimed victory when Democrats lifted longstanding restrictions on the use of funds for needle exchange programs and abortions. Those restrictions were quickly reinstated by Republicans a year later, though.
“This is a direct attack on the D.C. Home Rule Act,” said D.C. Vote Executive Director Kimberly Perry in a statement. “D.C. Vote, along with our powerful coalition, will not tolerate members of Congress using the people of the District of Columbia to advance a narrow social policy agenda in direct opposition with our local priorities. Members of Congress who support these onerous riders will be hearing from their constituents.”
The spending bill will be discussed at a hearing on Wednesday, after which it will have to go to the Senate.