WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate voted on Thursday to overturn a rule issued by the Obama administration that bans states from defunding the abortion and contraception giant Planned Parenthood. The resolution now heads to the desk of President Trump, who is expected to sign the measure.
“It’s a simple statement of where we used to be,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., told reporters. “States could choose to have Planned Parenthood as part of their Title X funding [but] states should not be compelled to.”
Vice President Mike Pence was called in to cast the deciding vote after the Senate found themselves in a 50-50 tie. No Democrats voted for the legislation, and all but two Republicans—Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—voted in favor of it.
Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., who introduced House Joint Resolution 43 in January, told NBC News that she was pleased with the outcome as she believes states should have the right to choose what to do with family planning funds and not be forced to give them to any particular organization.
“The Obama rule tried to force states—including Tennessee–to send taxpayer money to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood instead of community health centers and other qualified health providers,” she said. “Title X has worked for 45 years until the Obama administration changed the rules, and this legislation will simply undo this ill-conceived change.”
Planned Parenthood blasted the move as “taking away” women’s access to birth control.
“There’s a reason they could barely get enough votes to get this bill through a procedural step: People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and they will not stand for it,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.
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,” Sen. Black said. “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, according to the organization’s annual report, Planned Parenthood performed 323,999 abortions nationwide during the 2014-2015 fiscal year. The figure accounts for at least one-third of all abortions nationwide, when compared to statistics released in November by the Centers for Disease Control.
Planned Parenthood has not released its 2015-2016 report for unknown reasons, which has raised questions and red flags for some pro-life groups.
As it has been in previous years, Planned Parenthood’s largest focus in 2014-2015 was sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s), as it tested and/or treated over four million people for sexual ailments, with over 3.5 million tests and 32 thousand men and women being treated for ailments contracted through sexual activity.
Over 2.9 million people were provided with contraceptives or other forms of birth control in 2014—from temporary to permanent, including over 900 thousand emergency contraception kits. The figure is down from 3.5 million the year before, and 3.7 million in 2012.
Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms as it is not licensed to operate mammogram machines, and its annual report outlined that fewer than 700,000 women received services surrounding cervical cancer screenings (pap smears for women who have been sexually active), equating to just seven percent of its services, while STD testing and contraceptives accounted for 76 percent of its services.
Last month, thousands of women nationwide took to the streets to call for the defunding of the organization.
“They do not have mammograms. They do not provide prenatal care. They do not provide pediatric care, so it is not comprehensive healthcare for women,” participant Delia Laux of Virginia told reporters. “Planned Parenthood will say, ‘We’re not using that money for abortion. We’re using it for other services.’ The fact is money is refundable.”
As previously reported, House Joint Resolution 43 passed the House in February 228-188. It now heads to the desk of President Trump for signing.