D.C. Council complains to House leaders ahead of abortion-ban vote

The D.C. Council wrote to Congress Tuesday with a familiar message: Leave us alone.

On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to vote on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, which is designed to tighten prohibitions on the use of federal funds for abortions or for health-insurance plans that cover abortions.

But the bill also prohibits the District from using its own, locally-collected tax money to pay for any abortion services. That prompted the council to send a unanimously-signed letter to House leaders to complain that “[t]he bill would overturn the rule of local government.”

“H.R. 3 would make the District of Columbia the only jurisdiction in the country that is prohibited from choosing whether or not to use its own locally-raised funds to support low-income abortion services,” the council members wrote, adding that city residents “have neither a voice nor a vote in Congress to defend against this renewed assault.”

If this issue sounds familiar, that’s because Congress and the District just went through this debate last month, when President Obama and Republican leaders agreed to a spending resolution that prohibits D.C. from spending money on abortions.

That deal prompted an outcry from city leaders — and a protest at which Mayor Vincent Gray and several council members were arrested. But that bill’s prohibition technically only applies through Sept. 30, whereas the bill the House will consider Wednesday would enshrine the ban in federal law.

Republicans imposed the ban for several years when they previously controlled Congress, and supporters of the bill say it will simply codify a policy that has been in place for much of the last two decades.

“The comprehensive approach eliminates the need for the numerous funding protections and limitations approved every year and ensures that no program or agency is exempt from this important safeguard,” Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the bill’s author, said when he introduced it.

The measure is all-but-certain to pass the House Wednesday, but Senate Democratic leaders have no intention of bringing H.R. 3 up for a standalone vote in their chamber.

The activist group D.C. Vote plans to stage a protest against the abortion bill Wednesday evening in Upper Senate Park, across the street from the Capitol.

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