WASHINGTON ― As a parting gift to women, the Obama administration finalized a rule on Wednesday that will prohibit states from defunding Planned Parenthood for political reasons.
Twenty-four Republican-controlled state legislatures have moved to cut public funding to Planned Parenthood over the past five years because some of its clinics provide abortions, even though federal law already blocks the use of public money for abortions. The administration’s new rule, which the Department of Health and Human Services first proposed in September, prevents states from withholding Title X federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood (or any other health provider) for reasons other than the provider’s effectiveness at delivering family planning services.
“President Obama has cemented his legacy as a champion for women’s health,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood. “This rule protects birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other health care for millions of people.”
The Title X program, enacted by President Richard Nixon’s administration in 1970, subsidizes preventive health care and family planning services for 4 million low-income Americans, most of whom have annual incomes below $23,500. Planned Parenthood serves about a third of those patients, using the $70 million a year it receives in Title X grants to provide birth control, cancer screenings and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment for poor and uninsured patients.
But in the last year, politicians have intensified their efforts to defund the nation’s largest family planning provider, citing a series of heavily edited undercover videos produced by anti-abortion activists that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal body parts. Planned Parenthood was cleared of wrongdoing by a grand jury in Texas, but more than a dozen states have moved to block public funds from the provider since the release of the videos, and Republicans in Congress are on a mission to defund it.
Unfortunately for Planned Parenthood, the new Title X rule will probably not last long, because the anti-abortion politicians leading President-elect Donald Trump’s administration can move to reverse it. Trump’s pick for HHS secretary, Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), fiercely opposes abortion and said in 2012 that birth control does not need to be covered by health insurance because not one woman in the country has trouble getting access to it.
“Bring me one woman who has been left behind. Bring me one. There’s not one,” Price said then. “The fact of the matter is this is a trampling on religious freedom and religious liberty in this country.”
Richards says the “fight is not over.”
“We will not back down, and we will continue to fight for our patients’ access to care,” she said. “Every person deserves the right to control their own bodies, their own health, and their own well-being without politicians getting in the way.”