JULY 17, 2009
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved a presidential spending bill that overturns a longtime ban on taxpayer-financed abortions in the nation’s capital.
For decades the District of Columbia has prohibited using public dollars for abortions, but President Barack Obama inserted a measure to reverse the ban in his new federal budget request and Congress has obliged. The president also inserted language in the new law to legalize marijuana for “medical purposes.”
Since 1976, the U.S. government has banned (Hyde Amendment) the use of federal money to pay for abortions but some states use local dollars to fund the procedures. Because the Constitution gives Congress legislative authority over the District of Columbia, Congress also determines whether local tax money can be used to pay for abortions.
The D.C. ban, known as the Dornan Amendment, has been in effect since 1988 though Bill Clinton rescinded it for a few years before a Republican Congress reinstated in 1996. When Obama released his budget request to Congress a few months ago, he promptly inserted a repeal of the D.C. ban so that poor women could get publicly financed abortions.
The move was hardly surprising considering Obama lifted a decades-long ban on federal funding for international groups that promote and perform abortions immediately after taking office. The president said the unwarranted abortion rule undermined efforts to promote safe and effective voluntary family planning programs in foreign nations.
The policy was first implemented by Ronald Reagan in 1984 to keep with the government’s ban on federal funding for abortions and continued through the George H.W. Bush Administration until Clinton reversed it in 1993. George W. Bush reinstated the abortion ban in 2001.
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