ONCE AGAIN, both houses of Congress have passed a D.C. appropriations bill restoring the city's right to spend local tax dollars to help poor women pay for abortions. President Bush has twice vetoed similar actions; this time, however, he has every reason to sign the bill.
Around the time of the first veto, the president seemed to be unclear about the financial relationship between the District and the federal government and therefore may have based his veto on the mistaken assumption that Congress was approving federal funding of abortions in the District. At least that was one way to look at it because he said last March -- while taking a gratuitous shot at the notion of D.C. statehood -- that the city's funds "come almost exclusively from the federal government."
Of course, he was way off base. Most of the District's budget -- close to 86 percent -- is financed by city taxpayers. The remaining 14 percent is largely the federal payment, which has historically compensated the city for its inability to tax property occupied by the federal government. So President Bush need have no fear -- no federal interest is in jeopardy if the bill becomes law. In providing Medicaid-funded abortions, the District will be spending its own locally raised tax monies.
Besides, in restoring this right to the city Congress is only giving the District's elected officials the same right as those enjoyed by their elected colleagues in the 50 states -- the right to decide for themselves, based on the will of their constituents, whether to restrict or fund abortions. These are the questions that the Supreme Court in the Webster case ruled should be decided by local citizens through the political process. That, simply stated, is what District residents have done.