Republicans passed legislation on Thursday reversing former President Barack Obama's lame-duck ban on states withholding taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood.
The resolution will undermine a December order from the Obama administration that prevented states from blocking taxpayer funding of abortion clinics. Bill sponsor Rep. Diane Black (R., Tenn.) said on the House floor that state lawmakers should have the final say over how taxpayer dollars for medical care are distributed in their local communities.
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"We are simply voting today to affirm the right of states to fund the healthcare providers that best suit their needs, without fear of reprisal from their own federal government," Black said in a floor speech before the vote. "As a state legislator, I worked within my authority to make sure that Tennessee honored the will of our pro-life populace and steered our state’s share of Title X dollars away from health care providers that perform abortion."
State efforts to redirect taxpayer dollars away from abortion clinics began to gain momentum after the Center for Medical Progress released undercover video of Planned Parenthood workers and executives discussing their organ harvesting operations. Lawmakers and governors in 24 states introduced or passed legislation that would have denied funding to the nation's largest abortion provider, which receives about $500 million from taxpayers each year. If the resolution passes, state lawmakers could once again deny those funds to Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood decried the resolution in a press release. President Cecile Richards said that her organization plans on using the vote to mobilize opposition to Republican lawmakers.
"Extremists in Congress are trying to make it easier for state politicians to take away people's health care," she said in a statement. "This is wrong, and it’s not what the American people want. When Congress goes home next week, they can count on hearing from people at their offices, the corner store, and every town hall."
Pro-life groups praised the bill as necessary to advancing a larger Planned Parenthood defunding effort, which House Speaker Paul Ryan has pledged to pass in reconciliation. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, called the rule a "parting gift to the abortion industry" and praised lawmakers for quickly overturning it.
"At every turn, then-President Obama thwarted efforts by state and local authorities—who were acting on the will of the people—to prioritize taxpayer funding away from Big Abortion," she said in a statement. "Obama’s legacy of forcing Americans to finance the abortion industry is being steadily dismantled by our new pro-life President and the pro-life Congress. We look forward to swift passage of this resolution in the Senate so that it can receive President Trump’s signature."
The bill passed 230-188 with nearly every Democrat voting against it. In order to go into effect, the Senate would also have to pass the resolution and have it signed by the president.