Planning Trumped: Prepare for Parenthood

In October 2016 before leaving office, former President Barrack Obama issued a final rule to bar states from withholding federal family-planning funds from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other health clinics that provide abortions. The measure took effect two days before the inauguration of current President Donald Trump, and required that states pass along family-planning grants – regardless of whether the groups they’re passing them along to offer abortion services.

Now, however, President Trump has signed a law which gives states the option to deny funding for Planned Parenthood and other groups that perform abortions, thus invalidating Obama’s rule that “effectively barred state and local governments from withholding federal funding for family planning services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, fertility, pregnancy care, and breast and cervical cancer screening from qualified health providers…” To push the measure through Congress, Republicans relied on the Congressional Review Act, a law enacted by the United States Congress in 1996, which “empowers Congress to review, by means of an expedited legislative process, new federal regulations issued by government agencies and, by passage of a joint resolution, to overrule a regulation.” The law barely passed the Senate requiring a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Pence. President Trump’s new law allows states to block Planned Parenthood, along with other abortion providers, from receiving funds associated with the Title X Family Planning program. Title X is a federal grant program for family-planning and reproductive health services for low-income and uninsured patients. Title X provides about $60 million annually to Planned Parenthood. In states that directly control Title X money, the law could embolden legislatures to strip that funding from Planned Parenthood. However, in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey, independent nonprofits distribute Title X funds, and those nonprofits have pledged to continue funding local Planned Parenthoods.

Prior to taking office, President Trump voiced support for Planned Parenthood’s health-related services, other than abortion. He says that Planned Parenthood may keep its federal funding if it no longer provides abortion services. Although this proposal was never formally made, Planned Parenthood has sternly rejected any such proposal. In any case, federal law already prohibits the use of federal tax money to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest, or to save a woman’s life. The executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Dawn Laguens, stated, “Offering money to Planned Parenthood to abandon our patients and our values is not a deal that we will ever accept. Providing critical health care services for millions of American women is nonnegotiable.” A healthcare crisis would arise, according to the President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Cecile Richards, if Planned Parenthood were to be defunded. She does not believe the national health care system would be able to handle the 2.5 million patients that Planned Parenthood sees annually. Republicans in Congress and legislatures will likely to continue targeting Planned Parenthood because its network is the largest provider of abortions, even though about half of its affiliates do not perform them.