Upholding Abortion Ban is an Egregious Overstep and a Dangerous Gamble

On Saturday, the Senate passed a House-approved a fiscal year 2012 spending bill that includes a policy rider known as the D.C. abortion ban. The D.C. abortion ban prohibits the District of Columbia from using locally-raised tax revenues to fund abortion services. The harmful rider was first reinstated in April in an eleventh-hour compromise to prevent the federal government from shutting down.

DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) Board President Val Vilott issued the following statement in response:

“Today’s vote to approve a spending bill that upholds the devastating D.C. abortion ban is a dangerous assault on the women of D.C. and the District’s autonomy. Since this reprehensible policy was reinstated, it has had heartbreaking implications for our clients. We saw an immediate spike in need within our community when the sudden drop-off of D.C. Medicaid support for abortion services last April left 28 residents without funding for their already-scheduled procedures—which we fortunately were able to step forward to fund.

“Since that time, the need for our help has increased steadily. We now receive over 20 calls a day from women, many of whom are D.C. residents whose rights were bargained away by Congress. By contrast, during the period of time when D.C. Medicaid dollars were able to go toward abortions, we saw a marked decrease in demand. From October to April, D.C. Medicaid was invoiced for $165,000 worth of abortion care, which underscores just how much need exists in our community.

“We already constantly sprint to keep up with ever-increasing need. Congress’ vote today to sustain this reckless policy is a slap in the face. Congress does not meddle in the affairs of any state, and the District deserves that same deference. D.C. revenues are not Congress’ money to begin with, and to intervene in the District’s autonomous use of those funds in this way is an egregious overstep.

“Congress’ vote today is a dangerous gamble that plays politics with women’s lives. In the absence of D.C. Medicaid funding, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to ensure that no low-income women seeking abortion care are turned away from clinics because of their inability to pay. We are now working feverishly to raise emergency funds to help meet this increased need over the longer term.

“We have been immensely grateful for the extraordinary outpouring of support from our allies in the months since the D.C. abortion ban was reinstated. We hope to turn our outrage over the continuation of the D.C. ban into resilience. We, and the clients we serve, need the support of our community more than ever as we adjust to this difficult new reality.”