The House Appropriations Committee on Thursday beat back an attempt to remove a ban on local-government funded abortions in the District.
The spending panel is considering a bill that includes funds for D.C.’s fiscal 2012 budget. The measure would cut the federal government’s payment to the District by $62 million – or 10 percent – compared to 2011.
The bill also includes language prohibiting the D.C. government from using its own taxpayer funds to provide abortions for low-income women. Similar language was included in a short-term spending deal agreed to by President Obama and House Republicans in April, angering local leaders and activists.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) on Thursday tried to remove the language, offering an amendment that would preserve a ban on federally-funded abortions in the District but allow the city to use its own money for that purpose. Her amendment failed along party lines, 20-27.
“Local revenues should be spent and decided by local governments and local officials,” Lee said, later concluding an impassioned speech by saying of the District: “It’s not a colony, it’s the nation’s capital.”
Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-Mo.), chairman of the financial services subcommittee, said that the abortion issue was so important to her fellow Republicans that she believed the entire bill, which also carries funds for the Treasury Department and other agencies, could fail if the ban is not included.
“If we don’t get the bill to the floor with the language prohibiting abortion, we may run into other challenges,” Emerson said.
The first draft of the bill included the abortion-funding ban but did not prohibit the use of local funds for needle-exchange and medical-marijuana programs. It also was silent on the subject of the city’s same-sex marriage laws. In part, those omissions represented the preference of Emerson to keep the measure relatively free from extraneous provisions. But they could still surface in amendments offered when the bill hits the floor.