Trump Signs Law That Allows States To Defund Planned Parenthood

The law does not federally defund Planned Parenthood, but give states the power to withhold individual family planning grants.

Andrew Harnik / AP

President Donald Trump signed a bill into law Thursday that allows states to individually remove family planning funding from Planned Parenthood. The law overturns an Obama administration rule prohibiting states to block funding to qualified health organizations that provide abortions.

Vice President Mike Pence stepped in to break a tie vote over the repealing of the rule in March. Two Republican Senators had voted against the bill, enabling Pence to perform his first tie-breaking act as president of the Senate.

The law does not strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood — a move that was attempted by Republicans as part of the failed Obamacare repeal bill and is still being pursued by Republicans in Congress — but gives states that oppose Planned Parenthood the power to prevent them from receiving state-managed Title X family planning grants. Under this law, Planned Parenthood will still receive Medicaid reimbursements from the federal government for providing non-abortion services to low-income women.

The law overturns a Department of Health and Human Services rule, which was implemented in the dog days of Obama's administration in a last-ditch effort to protect Planned Parenthood from losing funding under a Republican Congress and president. The rule prevented states from withholding those funds from qualified health centers for "reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services," the White House office of the Press Secretary wrote Thursday.

A Department of Health and Human Services report released when the rule was first implemented said that since 2011, 13 states restricted Title X funds from going toward clinics that provide abortion, harming those clinics’ ability to see and provide treatment for low-income patients.

Federal funds cannot, however, go toward abortions themselves. Clinics like Planned Parenthood can be reimbursed with Title X funds for providing non-abortion services such as cancer screenings, STD tests, fertility services, and contraception to low-income patients without insurance who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but a federal law called the Hyde Amendment prevents any state or federal funding from going directly toward providing abortions.

Still, many Republican federal and state legislators, as well as anti-abortion advocates, argue that taxpayer money should not go toward organizations that perform a service that many of their constituents do not agree with, even if the funding doesn’t go toward the service itself.

The two Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate who refused to vote to overturn the rule were Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins, both of whom have long opposed defunding Planned Parenthood.

Anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List — which has worked closely with the Trump administration on anti-abortion initiatives — thanked the President and Vice President Thursday.

“Prioritizing funding away from Planned Parenthood to comprehensive health care alternatives is a winning issue," SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser wrote in a statement. "We expect to see Congress continue its efforts to redirect additional taxpayer funding away from Planned Parenthood through pro-life health care reform after the spring recess.”

Planned Parenthood mourned Trump's inevitable signing of the law Thursday. “We should build on the tremendous progress made in this country with expanded access to birth control, instead of enacting policies that take us backward," Planned Parenthood Vice President Dawn Laguens said. "Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and by signing this bill, President Trump disregards their health and well-being."