Because it is the nation’s capital, the District of Columbia works a little differently from most localities.
For starters, its budgets are subject to review by the United States Congress. The legislative branch of the federal government is currently considering whether or not to give DC greater control over its own budget, but the specter of abortion is complicating the decision. The Huffington Post states:
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which oversees D.C. affairs, expressed his commitment late last year to giving budget autonomy to the District to help city government avoid a shutdown whenever Congress appears unable to pass a spending bill.
D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Mayor Vincent Gray and others welcomed the proposal but reluctantly rejected the plan Issa unveiled in November because it contained a provision barring local funding for abortions — a move Issa said was necessary to win Republican votes.
Issa continues to work on a bill to establish budget autonomy that will satisfy stakeholders on both sides.
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee, said in an email that the organization “would oppose any [budget autonomy] legislation … unless it contains, at a minimum, a permanent prohibition on government-funded abortions in the Federal District.”
While it goes without saying that I vehemently oppose taxpayer funding of abortion, this particular case may not be so cut and dried. Generally speaking, a key characteristic of good government is that the decision-making process must be as simple and clear as possible, with decisions on separate matters being made separately. Politicians should be able to base their votes purely on how well a given measure addresses the problem in question, without having to compromise their principles on an entirely different problem.
Failing to maintain this standard not only ensures that decisions will be made on muddy, impure judgment, but also makes it needlessly difficult for the general public to assign praise and blame accordingly. For instance, pro-life Senator Rick Santorum has been fending off charges that he’s supported Planned Parenthood because he voted for Title X funding. Overall, Santorum has a strong anti-Planned Parenthood record, but Title X does contain funding for the abortion giant, which he rationalizes by saying he had to vote for the overall bill because of its good points, despite smaller parts he disliked. If Congress divided legislation appropriately rather than tried to do fifty different things at a time, such conflicts wouldn’t happen.
On those grounds, whether to grant DC budget autonomy and whether to let them fund abortion ought to be two separate decisions. The case does, however, reveal the hypocrisy of liberal politicians who don’t want this choice taken away from DC but would gladly take it away from everyone else. Perhaps Representative Issa should challenge his colleagues to accept the following compromise: we won’t tell the District of Columbia they can’t fund abortion if you stop telling the rest of the country they must fund abortion.
How about it, fellas?