Ask ANTIABORTION FORCES in the House of Representatives have a strong majority of more than 40 votes. While the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the right to abortion on constitutional grounds, House members in this majority continue to restrict the use of federal funds for the procedure, and they do so on any number of bills in which you wouldn't think the matter would even come up. The Hyde amendment, passed in 1976, restricts the use of federal money to pay for Medicaid abortions, but that does not seem to be enough for the legislators. Two weeks ago, for example, they added a rider to the Justice Department appropriations bill that would forbid the Bureau of Prisons to aid a female prisoner to get an abortion, even to the point of denying escort service so that the procedure could be performed outside a prison, since it is not available there.
Last week, however, the House went beyond regulating the expenditure of federal funds and voted to prohibit the District of Columbia from spending its own money to pay for Medicaid abortions. This city, like 14 states with half the population of the country, had responded to the passage of the Hyde amendment -- and the Supreme Court's decision upholding it -- by choosing to provide this service without using any federal money whatever. Local real estate, income and sales taxes pay for the whole program. Now the House says the city can't even use its own money for this purpose. It's not the first time the House has tried to impose this restriction. Fortunately, the Senate has not, as yet, concurred.
There is more than abortion at issue here, for no matter how you feel about the constitutionality, morality or desirability of abortion, this kind of action by the House is a striking and serious infringement of the rights of the citizens of this city.
The Supreme Court has ruled that Congress may restrict the use of federal funds, but at the same time the courts have upheld the right of states to use their own money in this way. Why should this jurisdiction be treated differently? Does home rule not imply that District residents are truly ready for self-government? The House has expressed contempt for the citizens of the District and the concept of self-goverment by this arrogant action. The Senate should refuse to go along.