Communications Department

NRLC Slams Obama White House for Urging Repeal of Ban on Tax-Funded Abortion-on-Demand in Nation’s Capital

May 7, 2009 | 2009 Press Releases

This is a press release issued by the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, May 7, 2009, at 1:30 PM EDT. For further information, contact the NRLC Federal Legislation Department,


The following statement was released by the nation’s largest pro-life organization, the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), soon after today’s release by the White House of President Obama’s first detailed budget recommendations to Congress. The White House document is intended to guide lawmakers as they craft spending bills for the new federal fiscal year that begins on October 1. NRLC is the federation of the right-to-life organizations in all 50 states.

“Some wide-eyed journalists and various political shills for the Obama Administration continue to write fairy tales about how President Obama wants to pursue policies that would reduce abortions,” said Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC). “That is a political scam. In reality, President Obama is pursuing a step-by-step strategy to expand access to abortion, and today’s step is to urge Congress to authorize the funding of abortion on demand in the nation’s capital, with funds appropriated by Congress.”

Today’s White House budget submission explicitly urges the House and Senate — which the President’s party currently controls with nearly three-fifths majorities — to repeal a law (sometimes called the Dornan Amendment) that has prevented tax-funded abortion in the District of Columbia for many years.

Article I of the U.S. Constitution says that Congress holds complete legislative authority over the District of Columbia (“exclusive legislation in all cases whatsoever”). That is why the entire budget for the District of Columbia (including revenues generated by local sources) must be appropriated by Congress through an annual appropriations bill.

For many years, the annual D.C. appropriations bill has contained a provision to prevent the use of any congressionally appropriated funds for abortions (except to save the life of the mother, or in cases of rape or incest). The White House budget document released today (on Appendix page 1209) asks Congress to repeal the ban on the use of congressionally appropriated funds, and replace it with a meaningless bookkeeping requirement that would apply only to funds specifically contributed for federal program purposes.

“If Congress goes along with the Obama proposal, the predictable result will be tax funding of several thousand elective abortions annually, including roughly 1,000 abortions annually that would not otherwise occur,” Johnson said. “Any member of Congress who votes for a bill that contains the White House proposal is, in reality, voting for tax-funded abortion on demand with congressionally appropriated funds.”

From 1988 until 1993, Congress annually included the ban on the use of any appropriated funds to pay for abortions (with narrow exceptions). The ban was temporarily lost early in the Clinton Administration, but it was restored in 1996 (although the city government illegally continued to pay for abortions for two subsequent years, according to press reports), and has been in continuous effect ever since.

During the period prior to enactment of the Dornan Amendment, and during the time it was suspended in the Clinton Administration, the city government paid for elective abortion on demand with congressionally appropriated public funds. During the congressional debates of that era, evidence was cited that indicated that the city’s abortion-funding policy was among the most permissive in the nation, and was not even limited to Medicaid-eligible clients. Elizabeth Reveal, D.C. budget director at the time, “confirmed that the District’s government has a policy of funding abortion on demand and does not attempt to determine the circumstances of the pregnancy.” (Philadelphia Inquirer, August 1, 1985.) In 1994, then-Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly authorized the use of $1,000,000 from the Medical Charities fund, which was originally set up to help indigent AIDS patients, to pay for abortions.

Pro-abortion groups periodically publish academic studies that demonstrate that policies that bar tax-funded abortions actually prevent one-third or more of the abortions that would otherwise occur among the covered populations.

“The abortion industry’s own studies suggest that many thousands of residents of the nation’s capital are alive today because of the abortion funding ban that President Obama now proposes to repeal,” said NRLC’s Johnson.

“Today’s White House action is one more evidence that President Obama is trying to pull off a massive policy scam — he generates a smokescreen of soothing rhetoric about seeking ‘common ground’ and ‘abortion reduction,’ while step by step advancing concrete policies that will substantially increase the number of abortions — and pay for abortion on demand with everyone’s taxes,” Johnson concluded.

The next step, Johnson suggested, would be “an attempt to smuggle vast expansions of abortion into law through health care reform legislation.”

Barack Obama met with Planned Parenthood in 2007 and promised that mandatory abortion coverage would be “at the center, the heart of” his health care reform legislation. In an April 30, 2009, National Public Radio report, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, confirmed that “health care reform is going to provide a platform” for ensuring that “all women . . . regardless of their income, can get access to the full range of health care options . . .”

The National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) is a national federation of nonsectarian right-to-life organizations, governed by a board elected by the state right-to-life organizations and by members at large.