Senate Advances Defunding of Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON (CN) – Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaker vote in the Senate Thursday, advancing legislation to stop federal funding for Planned Parenthood and other women’s health providers.

Only two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, opposed the bill.  All Democrats voted against it.

Pence has a long history of opposing abortion and as governor of Indiana gutted funding for Planned Parenthood in the state.

The Title X Family Planning Program, enacted by former President Richard Nixon in 1970 under the Public Health Act, is a federally funded grant program that provides family planning and preventative health services to low-income families or other uninsured individuals, including those who don’t qualify for Medicaid.

In September 2016, former President Barack Obama proposed a new rule protecting Title X. Obama’s rule forbade states to withhold funding for Planned Parenthood and other clinics or organizations that provide abortions. The rule was finalized in December and officially went into effect in January.

While the aim of reversing Title X is to limit the number of abortions performed, it will likely have a minimal impact. For more than 40 years, the Hyde Amendment has already blocked federal funding for abortions.

The reversal will, however, have a direct impact on funding for other critical women’s health services provided by Planned Parenthood and similar organizations, including treatment for breast and cervical cancer, counseling for teen mothers and treatment and screening for sexually transmitted diseases.

The bill was sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa.

Population Institute Policy Director Jennie Wetter issued a statement on the razor-thin vote.

“Allowing states to withhold Title X funding from abortion providers including Planned Parenthood will hurt successful family planning programs that have reduced teen pregnancy and improved women’s health… Congress’ actions target low income women, particularly women of color, and limit access to birth control across the country,” she said. “Women no matter where they live should be able to access affordable health care and that includes abortion care.”

Americans United for Life attorney Evangeline Bartz celebrated the vote, saying in a statement that the resolution kept a promise made to Americans that taxpayer resources would be invested in “full service health care, not abortion industry coffers.”

“By passing this Resolution of Disapproval, states will be free again to block abortion providers from subsidizing their businesses through Title X funds,” Bartz added. “In addition, Congress has acted to prevent future pro-abortion administrations from reinstituting it as an agency rule. We are grateful for the enduring value of Congress’ pro-life vote today. Funding for the abortion industry is entangled throughout numerous federal and state programs, like Title X.”

The bill has already cleared the House and only needs the president’s signature to become law.

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