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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

District of Columbia: A Brief Review of Provisions in District of Columbia Appropriations Acts Restricting the Funding of Abortion Services

Eugene Boyd
Analyst in Federalism and Economic Development Policy

The public funding of abortion services for District of Columbia residents is a perennial issue debated by Congress during its annual deliberations on District of Columbia appropriations. District officials have cited the prohibition on the use of District funds as another example of congressional intrusion into local matters. Since 1979, with the passage of the District of Columbia Appropriations Act of 1980, P.L. 96-93 (93 Stat. 719), Congress has placed some limitation or prohibition on the use of public (federal or District) funds for abortion services for District residents. For instance, when Congress passed and the President signed the District of Columbia Appropriations Act of FY2010, the city was allowed to use its own funds, but not federal funds, for such services.

Subsequently, in public laws appropriating funds for the District of Columbia for FY2011 and FY2012, Congress included provisions prohibiting the use of both District and federal funds for abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother was endangered. In an effort to reach final agreement on a FY2011 budget, in order to avert a government-wide shutdown, the Obama Administration and Senate and House leaders agreed to include a provision in H.R. 1473, a bill making full year appropriations for FY2011, prohibiting the District of Columbia from using federal and District of Columbia raised funds for abortion services, except in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life was endangered. The inclusion of the provision generated protest by city officials on the grounds that the restriction on the use of city funds is a violation of home rule. The bill, including the abortion services provision, was signed into law on April 15, 2011, as P.L. 112-10. Congress continued this prohibition on the use of District and federal funds for abortion services with the enactment of the Consolidated Appropriations Act for FY2012, P.L. 112-74, which was signed by the President on December 23, 2011.

The authority for congressional review and approval of the District of Columbia’s budget is derived from the Constitution and the District of Columbia Self-Government and Government Reorganization Act of 1973 (Home Rule Act). The Constitution gives Congress the power to “exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever” pertaining to the District of Columbia. In 1973, Congress granted the city limited home rule authority and empowered citizens of the District to elect a mayor and city council. However, Congress retained the authority to review and approve all District laws, including the District’s annual budget.

This report includes a brief overview of the District of Columbia appropriations process and a discussion of the current debate and legislative history of the abortion provisions included in District of Columbia appropriations acts.

Date of Report: July 1, 2012
Number of Pages: 9
Order Number: R41772
Price: $19.95

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