The Budget Compromise That Hurts DC Women


Yesterday, the mayor of Washington, D.C. and several city council members were arrested for blocking an avenue during a protest of a federal budget compromise that forbids the city’s to use local tax funds to fund abortion. What’s going on here?

Basically, while federal Medicaid can’t be used to fund abortions thanks to the Hyde Amendment, states can use Medicaid funding as they see fit. D.C., not being a state, is subject to the whims of the federal government. The provision in question has been part of a perennial back and forth in which D.C.’s rights are used as a bargaining chip in federal wranglings. (For a complete account, check out TBD’s excellent explainer.) Longtime underlying issues about D.C. statehood (or lack thereof) help explain why the abortion issue got such vigorous reaction among local politicians this week.

The Democratic-controlled Congress was the latest to lift the ban, but it’s hard to know how many women were able to be helped in that window of time, since the flip flopping undermines its effectiveness:

The funding restriction was lifted in 2009, but clinics then had to contact insurance providers and set up contracts, said DC Abortion Fund President Tiffany Reed. The details of those contracts took some time to iron out. That stalled the process, and Reed says her organization had only recently started referring Medicaid patients to the local Planned Parenthood clinic for abortion services.

Reed estimated to TBD that they had so far referred about five women to the funding through DC Medicaid. If you think all of this is fucked up, you can donate to the DC Abortion Fund, which provides direct funding to women in the district who cannot pay for their abortions.

So how did this happen? The Washington Post headline from over the weekend explaining the budget negotiation process is unintentionally, grimly hilarious: “Budget Battle Came Down To Three Men And Their Weaknesses.” Doesn’t it always?

Their excellent process story includes the President uttering the line in the Oval Office, “John [Boehner], I will give you D.C. abortion. I am not happy about it.” Democrats held the line on Planned Parenthood — The Washington Post attributes this to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid seeing an opportunity to look strong and rally the base — but have historically been even more willing to give up the rights of Washington D.C. to fund abortions. (It helps, politically speaking, that, again, none of the funding to Planned Parenthood goes to abortions). Boehner had a point when his office announced that Reid, Joe Biden, and Obama had all voted for the ban in the past. At least they’re consistent in their inconsistency?

The actual budget was only released late yesterday, and wonks are still examining it for the damage. An initial read by the AP falls in Obama’s favor: “favorite programs” like Pell grants for college financial aid, the Head Start program, and the “Race to The Top” public school program. And, of course, Planned Parenthood and Title X clinics. Sorry, D.C. women.

Obama Prevents Budget Cuts To Favorite Programs [AP]
DC Abortion Funding: An Explainer [TBD]
Budget Battle Came Down To Three Men And Their Weaknesses [WP]
Protestors Including DC Mayor Arrested During Protest Of Abortion Rider In Budget Deal [TPM]

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