Proponents of Washington, D.C., home rule are crying foul over a provision in a new anti-abortion bill that they fear is the first step in House Republicans’ attempt to strip the District of its autonomy and revert to old practices.
The GOP leadership-backed No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act would make it illegal to use taxpayer money to fund abortions. But unlike current practice, it classifies any funds appropriated to the District as federal funds. The measure would essentially reinstate a ban on D.C. abortion funding that the Democratic-controlled Congress and President Barack Obama lifted in 2009.
“How hypocritical,” said Ilir Zherka, executive director of DC Vote. “You’ve got the Republican leadership coming into office saying they’re going to reduce the power of the federal government and the third bill they introduce is a bill that would expand the power of the federal government by basically federalizing the District’s policy on abortion.”
He said the bill would be a step above Republicans’ practice when they controlled the House prior to 2007. At the time, riders were added to appropriations bills on a year-to-year basis restricting funds for abortion programs. That procedure was abandoned when Democrats took over Congress in 2007.
“From the District’s point of view, this is the first clear indication of more to come,” Zherka said. “This change in approach to the District is very alarming.”
Zherka added that the group is consulting lawyers to calculate its next move.
Spokesmen for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the bill’s sponsor, did not return requests for comment.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.