D.C. budget autonomy bill has abortion ban

Nov. 15, 2011 at 9:33 AM
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WASHINGTON, Nov. 15 (UPI) -- The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee leader attached an abortion funding ban to a bill that would give Washington budget autonomy.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., would allow the District of Columbia to spend its own money after the council and mayor approve the budget, instead of having to wait for Congress to give its approval, as it now must do, The Washington Post reported Monday. Issa's measure includes a provision that would prohibit the District from spending its own taxpayer funds to pay for abortions for low-income women except in cases of rape, incest or to save the mother's life.

Issa spokesman Frederick Hill said the bill is a "good-faith effort" to address the city's desire for more autonomy.

"Its design reflects a desire to work with District leaders on legislation that can achieve passage in both the House and Senate," Hill said.

Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Mayor Vincent Gray and others, angry when President Obama and Republicans included a temporary abortion ban in a spending deal in April, greeted Issa's proposal with caution Monday.

"We received a proposal from Chairman Issa's staff this morning, apparently at the same time they provided it to the media," Norton said. "We appreciate that Chairman Issa has followed up on his statements at a May hearing that he wanted to give the District of Columbia more authority over its local budget and fiscal year and to avoid future shutdowns of the District government over federal spending fights."

However, Ilir Zherka, head of the advocacy group DC Vote, said his group was eager to achieve budget autonomy but "I don't think you can begin this conversation with a bill that permanently restricts how the District can spend its own money."

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