As the House and Senate sort out the final details of the final appropriations bill, it looks like there are not many surprises. Which is both great and bad news. It is great news that Title X is not being wholly defunded (although it is facing funding cuts), Planned Parenthood is not losing all federal funding, refusal provisions are not being amended and expanded, and HHS will get the funds it needs to implement the Affordable Care Act. But, there is also bad news. Really bad news.
It is bad news that no one thinks it is a surprise that the bill includes a ban on locally-raised funds in DC for abortion services. It seems that the ban on DC using its own locally-raised funds (this means we are not talking about federal money) for abortion services is an easy trade, nothing to hold up an entire appropriations bill over. The DC abortion ban is apparently not as important to some as the provision that would have restricted visits to Cuba, which was apparently a real sticking point. But this is wrong. Barring the District from using its own funds to provide coverage of services it has determined it would like to provide not only undermines reproductive rights, but squarely hits at the unfair, very wrong fact that DC is denied the self-governance and self-representation that the 50 states in the U.S. get.
Granted, it has long been the law of the land that DC has a political status far inferior to the rest of the country. As a long-time resident of DC, I am very aware of the fact that the city I love so much gets no voting love in Congress (oh, and yes, I still pay federal taxes like the rest of you who get representation, remember the whole: “no taxation without representation” thing, right…). And I know Congress has long interfered with DC lawmaking. But it takes on a whole new level of disgust when Congress tells DC that it cannot use its own funds (Repeat: OWN!) to cover abortion services. This should be a stopping point for negotiations, not a starting point.
But here we are, just eight months after President Obama reportedly said to Representative Boehner that he would “give [Boehner] D.C. abortion”, DC abortion is being “given” yet again. I just hope that the low-income women in DC who seek abortion services understand that they were an easy political “give” for Congress. I hope they understand this, because I sure don’t.