House Passes Plan to Let D.C. Fund Some Abortions, Explore Medical Marijuana Law

Associated Press
Friday, July 17, 2009

The D.C. government could fund abortions for the poor and take steps toward legalizing marijuana for medical purposes under a spending bill passed by the House yesterday.

The measure passed by a narrow 219 to 208 vote. Many antiabortion Democrats voted against it because of the move by Democratic leaders to permit the D.C. government to use locally raised tax revenue to provide abortions, reversing a long-standing ban imposed by Congress. The bill would also begin to phase out a school voucher program for D.C. students that is popular with Republicans, and it would establish a needle exchange program for intravenous drug users to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Republicans were blocked from being able to vote on reversing the Democratic moves but forced an amendment to prohibit the use of federal funding for needle exchange programs in many parts of the District, prompting concerns among AIDS activists that the city could lose a valuable weapon in the fight against the disease.

The amendment, offered by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), would prohibit the city from using federal funds to distribute needles for the "injection of illegal drugs . . . within 1,000 feet of a public or private day care center, elementary school, vocational school, secondary school, college, junior college, university, public swimming pool, park, playground, video arcade or youth center."

A companion bill in the Senate does not contain language prohibiting the use of federal dollars for needle exchanges. But it is not certain that provisions to permit abortion funding and medicinal use of marijuana will survive when the Senate takes up the spending bill.

The measure provides $768 million in federal money for the D.C. government. During GOP control of Congress, Republicans routinely used Congress's authority over the District to impose conservative social policies on the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Staff writer Darryl Fears contributed to this report.

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