As Congress returns from recess this month, domestic social issues will dominate the agenda, with lawmakers resuming work on several controversial fronts, including:

Abortion. The biggest congressional battle on this issue is being fought over the annually debated District of Columbia appropriations bill. Last month, the House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment that would have prohibited the District from using tax revenues to pay for abortions for women who cannot afford them.

In years prior to 1988, D.C. Medicaid paid for some 3,000 abortions annually. Last year, Congress—which controls all of the District’s money—forbade the nation’s capital to use any public money for abortions. However, in a 219-to-206 vote just before the recess, the House rejected an amendment offered by Rep. Robert Dornan (R-Calif.) that would have had a similar effect on government-financed abortions.

Many members expressed concern that Dornan’s amendment offered no exceptions to the ban, not even if the life of the mother is endangered. Procedural maneuvering by prochoice representatives prevented prolife congressmen from introducing an amendment granting an exception to the ban when the mother’s life is in danger. Dornan said he would have been willing to add the exception during conference committee negotiations later on as well.

The measure now goes to the Senate for consideration. President Bush has sent a letter to Congress threatening to veto the bill if it allows appropriated funds to be used for abortion.

Additional congressional abortion-funds battles are expected in the next two months surrounding reauthorization and revision of the government’s Title X Family Planning Program and the foreign-aid authorization bills.

• Defining ...

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