By Robert Lowes
WebMD Health News
March 30, 2017
In a move opposed by a large swathe of the healthcare field, the Senate today narrowly overturned an Obama-era rule that prevents states from cutting off federal family-planning funds to Planned Parenthood.
Vice President Mike Pence cast the deciding vote to break a 50-50 stalemate. The measure, already approved by the House, now goes to President Donald Trump for his signature.
Federal law prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions, but health centers that perform them can receive money to perform other services. Opponents of abortion rights, including their Republican allies in Congress, have sought a complete cut-off of federal funding.
In December 2016, the Obama administration issued a rule designed to ensure that groups such as Planned Parenthood would receive family-planning dollars under Title X of the Public Health Service Act. The rule said that states could not withhold these funds from health centers for reasons that have nothing to do with their ability to provide family-planning services — reasons that might include the provision of abortions. Some 4000 community-based clinics receive Title X funds.
The US Department of Health and Human Services said at the time that the rule will "strengthen access to essential services like cancer screening and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country."
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) decried today's Senate vote in a news release as a "great disservice to low-income women and adolescents who rely on Title X health centers to access comprehensive care, including family planning and contraceptive care."
ACOG warned that restricting women's healthcare choices would drive up rates of unplanned pregnancies, pregnancy complications, and undiagnosed medical conditions. It urged Trump to veto the resolution passed by Congress.
The president, however, already has signed another resolution that bans federal funding along the same lines for nongovernmental organizations in other countries that perform abortions.
ACOG was one of 26 medical, nursing, and public health groups that signed a letter to Congress urging lawmakers to vote down the rollback of the Obama-era rule on Title X funding. Other signatories included the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, the Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine, the American Medical Women's Association, the American Nurses Association, and the American Public Health Association.