Women of the Black Caucus urge Senate Dems not to abandon DC

The Democratic women of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) are urging their Senate colleagues to fight harder for reproductive healthcare rights in the District of Columbia. 

In a May 3 letter to the Democratic women of the Senate, the CBC members said they were “deeply disappointed” when Democrats agreed last month to a 2011 continuing resolution (CR) that included language barring D.C. from using local taxpayer dollars to fund abortion services for low-income women.

The CBC members said those women were “sacrificed” for the sake of a spending deal, which was negotiated by Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and the White House.

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“The poor women in the District have already begun to feel the terrible effects of the rider,” the letter said. “Abortions are time-sensitive, and scores of women scheduled for District-funded abortions at a Planned Parenthood clinic immediately had their appointments canceled. This paradox cannot be overlooked.”

In the heat of last month’s spending fight, the Democratic women of the Senate united with a threat to kill any proposal that would limit women’s healthcare services. They were especially critical of several House-passed provisions – popular among conservatives – to eliminate all federal funding for Title X programs, in general, and Planned Parenthood, in particular. 

Yet those same senators did not draw a line at the D.C. abortion rider. Indeed, every one of the Democratic women – including Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Maria Cantwell (Wash.), Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), Mary Landrieu (La.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (N.H.) and Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) – voted in favor of the 2011 spending bill with the rider attached.

That discrepancy was not lost on the CBC women. Noting that the District of Columbia has “no vote in Congress and no representation in the Senate,” they're urging their upper-chamber counterparts to fight as hard for the women of D.C. as they have for their own constituents.

The D.C. abortion rider expires at the end of fiscal year 2011, but the House this week is slated to vote on another abortion bill that would make the provision permanent. Republicans are also eying the 2012 budget as a vehicle for solidifying the D.C. abortion-funding restrictions.

“As the fiscal year 2012 appropriations process begins, we believe it would be invaluable if you stated, early and publicly, your opposition to the inclusion of the D.C. abortion rider in the fiscal year 2012 appropriations bill,” the CBC members wrote. “This is perhaps the only way to keep it out of the bill after Democrats agreed to it in the CR.”

The letter was signed by CBC members Barbara Lee (Calif.), Karen Bass (Calif.), Donna Christensen (V.I.), Donna Edwards (Md.), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Eddie Bernice Johnson (Texas), Corrine Brown (Fla.), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.), Marcia Fudge (Ohio) Gwen Moore (Wis.), Laura Richardson (Calif.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), Terri Sewell (Ala.) and Frederica Wilson (Fla.).