Groups Urge Lawmakers To Oppose D.C. Abortion Ban in Spending Bill

December 15, 2011 — Several liberal groups on Wednesday sent a letter urging congressional lawmakers to oppose any omnibus spending bill that includes a rider banning the District of Columbia from using local funds for abortion care, Roll Call reports. The Center for Reproductive Rights, National Network of Abortion Funds and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington were among 14 co-signers of the letter, which was sent by DC Vote. The letter also decries efforts to end the district's needle exchange program, calling both riders "an assault on D.C. home rule" (Dumain, Roll Call, 12/14).

The $1 trillion spending package released by House Republicans on Wednesday includes the D.C. abortion rider. The package does not include a provision seeking an end to federal funding for Planned Parenthood (AP/NPR, 12/15). The Obama administration and congressional Democrats are resisting GOP efforts to include the D.C. abortion rider (Pear, New York Times, 12/14).

This month, 108 House Democrats sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee chair and ranking member requesting an omnibus without policy riders that would restrict women's access to health care. "We are counting on those members and others to stand up for the women of the District of Columbia and HIV/AIDS prevention programs," the DC Vote letter states.

As negotiations on the spending package continue, some Democrats who signed the letter said they are unsure whether the issue would cause them to withhold support for the entire omnibus bill (Roll Call, 12/14). Lawmakers must approve a spending measure by midnight on Friday -- when the current stopgap continuing resolution expires -- to avoid a government shutdown (Women's' Health Policy Report, 12/14).

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said, "If it was the entire bill at stake, I don't think you can vote against funding the entire federal government over that single issue." Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) said such a rider would make him "inclined not to support it," while Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) said they are undecided.

Grijalva said, "I think every member, not only the Progressive caucus and the 108 members who signed [the letter], are going to balance that with the need to get something done, ... but at the same time, you know, we have to be consistent with positions we took" (Roll Call, 12/14).