The Republican-led effort to deny Planned Parenthood access to federal dollars took a step forward yesterday (March 30) when the Senate voted to undo Obama-era protections that kept the government from arbitrarily denying certain healthcare providers Title X family planning funds. A number of states have already tried to cut off providers that perform abortions such as Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the Hyde Amendment has long prohibited the use of federal dollars to subsidize abortion services.
Since the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) put the initial non-discrimination rule in place, HHS Secretary Tom Price could have changed it himself, without Congress. Yet Republicans took it up as legislation. The GOP-dominated House of Representatives voted in favor of undoing the non-discrimination rule on February 16. Yesterday’s Senate vote took place just one week after the Republican plan to modify Obamacare failed.
Two Republican senators—Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska—voted against yesterday’s measure, creating a tie. In an unusual move, Vice President Mike Pence came in to cast the tie-breaking vote. Historically speaking, vice presidents rarely come in to break ties but this Pence’s second time doing so in the three months since the Trump Administration came into power. The first was to confirm education secretarys Betsy DeVos.
President Donald Trump is expected to sign the bill into law.
We’ve covered before why threats to Planned Parenthood are likely to disproportionately impact people of color, who rely on their services for free or low-cost reproductive health care in many states. But it’s not clear how quickly this move could actually threaten Planned Parenthood’s family planning funding as there are court cases in a number of states challenging the legality of such a measure.