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D.C. Spending Bill Approved by Subcommittee; Contraceptive Coverage at Issue

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on the District of Columbia on July 13 approved, by voice vote, its FY2001 spending bill (as-yet-unnumbered).

As in past years, the bill maintains current law with respect to the prohibition on the use of federal and District funds for needle exchange programs, abortion coverage for low-income women on Medicaid, and the medicinal use of marijuana. Exceptions on abortion coverage would be made in cases of rape, incest, or if the pregnant woman’s life were endangered.

The bill also attempts to prevent the enactment of a recently-passed D.C. City Council bill. As approved by the D.C. City Council on July 12, the Council bill would require health insurance plans that provide coverage for city employees to cover contraceptives if the plans cover other prescription drugs. Subcommittee Chair Ernest Istook (R-OK) objected to the D.C. bill because it did not include a conscience clause, which would allow employers and insurers to opt out of providing the coverage if they have a religious objection to the provision of contraceptives. As a result, he inserted language that would prevent the D.C. contraceptive coverage bill from taking effect.

Rep. James Moran (D-VA) offered and withdrew an amendment that would have struck Rep. Istook’s language. Rep. Moran stated that he would attempt to work out a compromise before the bill is considered by the full committee.

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