The District of Columbia's government paid for at least 300 abortions in the two-year period when lawmakers lifted a federal ban blocking the city from funding the procedure, according to news reports.
The city provided the abortion assistance through government health care programs for low-income women. More than a third of the city's some 600,000 residents get health care through Medicaid or the D.C. HealthCare Alliance. The city spent approximately $185,000 on abortions, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.
These figures are in sharp contrast to the numbers Mayor Vincent Gray told Congress. In May, the mayor testified that the city had paid $62,000 to help 117 D.C. women receive the elective procedure.
The mayor's office told AP the discrepancy reflects the fact that many of the bills were not submitted on time. A city spokesman also told the news outlet that the number of city-funded abortions could rise as more bills come in.
Congress has long used its control over the District's budget to restrict the city from paying for abortions.
Since 1988, lawmakers have used legislative attachments called riders to ban tax dollars from being used to fund abortion. Prior to the Barack Obama administration, the abortion ban was only lifted once – from 1993 to 1994.
Republicans maintain that city residents who elect to receive an abortion should pay for the procedure themselves. City officials and abortion supporters argue that low-income women cannot afford to on their own.
In 2009, a Democratically-controlled Congress ended the ban on D.C. funding for abortions after President Obama was elected to office.
It took the city nearly a year to begin paying for abortions once the ban was lifted. The first funds for an abortion were dispensed in August last year. The procedures cost the city between $500 and $700 each.
In April, Republicans and Democrats approved a stopgap measure cutting $38.5 billion in federal spending and banning the District of Columbia from using government funds to pay for abortion-related services.
D.C. residents and leaders including Mayor Gray, a Catholic, later protested the ban across from the White House. Gray asserted the city should be given the final say on its own affairs.
All states and the District of Columbia are prohibited by Congress from using federal money to pay for abortions for women covered under Medicaid except in cases of rape, incest and grave risk to mother's life. However, states are free to use their own tax dollars to pay for the procedures for women on Medicaid if they choose to do so.
Currently, 17 states use their own money to pay for abortions for women on Medicaid, though all but four do so under court order, as reported by AP.