At issue is a rule created by the Obama administration last December, which forbade states to withhold Title X “family-planning” grants to Planned Parenthood on account of the fact that it performs abortions. States had been instead looking to fund other health clinics.
On Thursday, the Senate was voting to advance a joint resolution of disapproval that already passed the House. It would cancel the Health and Human Services rule.
With Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine joining Democrats in opposing the repeal, the vote was evenly divided 50-50 before Pence broke the tie and voted for its advancement.
It was the “first abortion-related vote in the Senate” since 2015, according to the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.
“We are so grateful that Vice President Mike Pence, who began the battle to defund the Planned Parenthood abortion corporation when he was a congressman, traveled up Pennsylvania Avenue to cast the tie-breaking vote in defense of human dignity and babies lives,” Ferguson stated.
Back in December, the Department of Health and Human Services ruled that states could only withhold Title X “family-planning” funds from health centers if the clinics failed to adequately provide the range of services the funding was meant for, like contraceptives, pregnancy tests and infertility treatments.
Thus, the fact that Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider could not be the factor for states withholding Title X funds from its facilities.
According to Planned Parenthood’s most recent fiscal year report from 2014-15, the organization performed more than 323,999 annual abortions. It received more than $550 million in federal, state and local funds in that year, or “government health services grants and reimbursements.”
The organization has drawn controversy for its role in the trade of fetal body parts from aborted babies, obtained by tissue harvesters and ultimately used for purposes like medical research.
The Center for Medical Progress had aired a series of undercover videos, starting in the summer of 2015, from conversations its staff had with Planned Parenthood officials. The videos showed doctors discussing prices for fetal tissue with actors posing as tissue harvesters.
The organization was investigated by states, but has not currently been charged for illegal sales of tissue; reimbursement at “reasonable” levels for expenses like operating costs is allowed by federal law. However, a House Select Investigative Panel released a report in January detailing some abuses within the organization.
For instance, Planned Parenthood officials had admitted that facilities had not followed the organization’s procedures on important matters like fetal-tissue transfers or ensuring that abortion procedures were not illegally altered for the purpose of tissue harvesting.
Another investigative report released around the same time by the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute showed that, according to federal audits, Planned Parenthood had overbilled Medicaid reimbursements and other public-health funds by more than $130 million.
In some cases in Nebraska and New York, public funds including Medicaid reimbursements had paid for abortion-related claims and services at Planned Parenthood, according to audits.
States should be free to disperse Title X funds to clinics they believe provide true health care, especially in light of Planned Parenthood’s recent controversies, insisted Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
If the resolution is passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, it would “undo former President Obama’s parting gift to the abortion industry,” she stated.
“Never again will the federal government thwart efforts by states that — acting on the will of the people — want to fund real women’s health care, not abortion.”
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, praised Congress for taking action regarding this bill.
"The clear purpose of this Title X rule change was to benefit abortion providers like Planned Parenthood," Cardinal Dolan said. "So Congress has done well to reverse this very bad public policy and to restore the ability of states to stop one stream of our tax dollars going to Planned Parenthood and redirect it to community health centers that provide comprehensive primary and preventive health care."
The measure now goes to President Trump, who is expected to sign the resolution into law.