WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday to overturn a rule issued by the Obama administration that bans states from defunding the abortion and contraception giant Planned Parenthood.
Congress used its authority under the Congressional Review Act, which allows the legislative branch to overturn orders issued within the past 60 days. It agreed 228-188, under House Joint Resolution 43, to return power to the states to distribute Title X funding as they see fit.
“This resolution does not cut a dime from family planning funding available to states. It simply enables states to direct the funding towards non-abortion, whole-women health care providers,” explained Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Mo.
As previously reported, Title X was enacted in 1970 under the Public Health Service Act and authorizes the Office of Population Affairs to oversee the disbursement of federal funds for the purpose of assisting organizations that offer “family planning” services. States distribute the capital to reproductive and women’s health organizations as they see fit.
In recent years, a number of states have sought to defund the abortion giant Planned Parenthood after granting the organization funds for years, remarking that they do not wish to assist groups that provide abortion services, even if the funds will not be directly used for abortion.
But the Obama administration contended last year that stripping abortion facilities of funding results in undesired births. It also asserted that such locations are important because they provide contraceptives.
“Reducing access to Title X services has many adverse effects. Title X services have a dramatic effect on the number of unintended pregnancies and births in the United States,” HHS said in September. “For example, services provided by Title X-funded sites helped prevent an estimated 1 million unintended pregnancies in 2010 which would have resulted in an estimated 501,000 unplanned births.”
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) consequently drafted a rule—which it finalized in December—that amends the Code of Federal Regulations to read, “No recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons unrelated to its ability to provide services effectively.”
But some lawmakers sought to overturn the rule, which they opined was crafted with bias and incorrect information.
“This edict was replete with statements that the Administration cannot back up,” said Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn. “For example, the rule stated that health care providers with a focus on reproductive health—for example Planned Parenthood—can ‘accomplish Title X programmatic objectives more effectively.’ This is demonstrably false.”
“According to Planned Parenthood’s most recent annual report, Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive services dropped by 18% over the last year,” she noted. “And their total number of services provided dropped by 11% even as their taxpayer funding increased by millions and their abortions continued at over 320,000 a year.”
As previously reported, Planned Parenthood’s 2016 annual report showed that the number of women visiting the organization during the 2014-2015 fiscal period was the lowest in almost a decade. The report totaled its services provided as being 9,455,582, with business being down by nearly a million persons from the year before, when figures totaled 10,590,333.
Over 2.9 million people were provided with contraceptives or other forms of birth control in 2014-2015—from temporary to permanent, including over 900 thousand emergency contraception kits. The figure was down from 3.5 million in 2013, and 3.7 million in 2012.
Democrats still decried the House vote, stating that Washington should stay out of the matter of reproductive health.
“Repealing this rule is a serious problem,” said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo. “This [decision] should be made by patients and their doctors, not by bureaucrats in Washington.”
But House Speaker Paul Ryan said that was his point exactly: that the Obama administration shouldn’t tell states what to do with family planning funds.
“Many states have distributed these funds, not to Planned Parenthood, but to effective community health centers that do not perform abortions. Ultimately, states know the needs of their communities better than bureaucrats in Washington. But this regulation strips states of their longstanding ability to decide how federal funds should be used in their state. This repeal would restore the proper balance of powers,” he said.