Leaders of the District of Columbia rejected a legislative deal with Congress this morning that would have given DC autonomy over the city budget in exchange for a permanent measure that would ban the District from using its own funds for abortion services. The District is currently restricted by a congressionally imposed ban on DC funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the woman or girl.
Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC Mayor Vince Gray, and City Council Chair Kwame Brown released a joint statement rejecting the proposal. In part, they said, “Particularly considering the many good provisions in Chairman Issa’s bill, we regret that we cannot accept it, and would have to strongly oppose it if it were introduced. We recognize that the abortion provision is what Chairman Issa believed would be necessary to get the bill passed in the House. But the views of others should not prevail over the views of our own residents. Our opposition to the provision to permanently prohibit the District from spending its local funds on abortion services for low-income women is as strong as the views of those outside our city who support it… We hope the Issa proposal represents a continuation of a conversation he started at the hearing in May, not an end, and will serve as a model for how Congress can work collaboratively with the city.”
Representative Darrell Issa (R-CA), Chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, released a draft of the bill earlier this week. In addition to granting budgetary autonomy, the bill would have also allowed the District to shift its fiscal year and to avoid District government shut downs caused by funding fights on the federal level. On Monday, Issa spokesperson Frederick Hill said that the bill’s “design reflects a desire to work with District leaders on legislation that can achieve passage in both the House and Senate,” according to the Washington Post.