IF ANYBODY around town needs a reminder that the District of Columbia is still very much a ward of Congress, a look at the latest House-approved budget for the city should set things straight. These days it's not so much the amount that Congress finally allows the city to spend -- of its own taxpayers' money -- but the restrictions imposed on the conduct of local government. Once again, the House has approved an amendment that would block the District from using local or federal funds to pay for abortions for poor women. Once again, the amendment is the work of Rep. Robert Dornan of California, adopted by a vote of 191 to 181 -- without, of course, any vote representing the District itself.
When the House did this last year, the Senate rejected it. Conferees eventually settled on standard language in federal appropriations bills that prevents federal funds from being used for abortions except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term or in cases of rape or incest. This year District officials fear it may be tougher to eliminate the amendment because of changes in the Senate subcommittee makeup.
But any member of that subcommittee -- no matter what general views he may hold on abortion -- should be willing to permit a decision that would control federal funds while also respecting the local government's responsibility for use of local funds.