States will once again be able to defund Planned Parenthood after President Trump overturned an 11th-hour Obama administration regulation protecting funding for the nation's biggest abortion provider.
Trump signed into law on Thursday a bill reversing a Department of Health and Human Services regulation signed in December that prevented states from blocking funding for Planned Parenthood. Obama's regulation reversed the policies of more than a dozen states that had prevented federal Medicaid dollars or other federal reimbursements from going to clinics that perform abortions.
Trump signed the legislation one month after he said that he would continue to direct taxpayer dollars to Planned Parenthood if it stopped performing abortions. The organization performs more than 300,000 abortions each year—about one-third of the national total.
"There is an opportunity for organizations to continue the important work they do in support of women’s health, while not providing abortion services," Trump said.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards rejected that offer in March. Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said on Thursday that the law would hinder access to health care.
"People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and this bill is just the latest example," she said in a statement.
Pro-life activists celebrated the signing. Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a policy advisor with The Catholic Association said that the bill would restore "the rights of states to take their tax payers' hard-earned dollars away from the severely limited Planned Parenthood abortion centers and redirect them to comprehensive health care clinics."
"We have seen that a needy woman is not able to get real care at Planned Parenthood. The abortion giant offers no mammograms, no prenatal care, and ultrasounds only if the woman is there to get an abortion," Grazie said in a statement. "By signing H.J. Res 43, he [Trump] allows states to fund the health clinics that are true lifelines for poor women."
The bill was the second victory for the anti-abortion movement this week following the confirmation and swearing-in of Jude Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. Senate Democrats waged aggressive campaigns against both Gorsuch and the bill. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) launched the first ever filibuster of a Supreme Court nominee on Thursday, leading Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Kent.) to change the Senate rules with the nuclear option. Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45. The Planned Parenthood funding bill was closer, passing only after Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
The Susan B. Anthony List, a group that supports pro-life candidates, said in a statement that it will continue to push Republican lawmakers to take further steps to redirect the $500 million that Planned Parenthood takes in each year from taxpayers.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List's executive director, urged Congress to pass federal reforms that would defund Planned Parenthood—measures similar to the legislation passed by the House of Representatives following the release of undercover videos capturing Planned Parenthood executives candidly talking about its organ harvesting operations. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R., Wisc.) said in January that he planned to include defunding language in the GOP's 2017 agenda.
"Prioritizing funding away from Planned Parenthood to comprehensive health care alternatives is a winning issue," Dannenfelser said in a statement. "We expect to see Congress continue its efforts to redirect additional taxpayer funding away from Planned Parenthood through pro-life health care reform after the spring recess."