Can Trump Defund Planned Parenthood?

by Eliza Castile

As the news of President-elect Donald Trump's astonishing victory begins to sink in, Americans face an uncertain future. Among other concerns, many women are wondering if Planned Parenthood can be defunded when the Republican takes office. His campaign made many promises, some more grounded in reality than others, but when it comes to abortion, Trump's intentions tend to change. In April, the Washington Post pointed out that Trump held five different positions on abortion over the course of three days. However, one thing is certain: Although Trump described himself as "very pro-choice" in 1999, his campaign was decidedly pro-life, and it's likely his administration will try to deliver on his pledge to defund Planned Parenthood.

In September, Trump wrote an open letter to pro-life leaders urging them to support his campaign. In the letter, he laid out four promises: to nominate pro-life Supreme Court justices; pass a law banning late-term abortions; make the Hyde Amendment, which blocks Medicaid funding for abortion services, permanent; and to defund Planned Parenthood.

With the intention clearly present, the question becomes whether a Trump administration can cut federal funding to the organization. In a statement following the election, Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, sounded equal parts worried and determined. "There are almost no words to capture the threat that this election result poses to our democracy, to our economic security, to access to reproductive health care and most especially to the safety and dignity of people of color," she said, according to CBS News. "We cannot allow the acceptance of institutionalized racism, sexism, and discrimination to become our new normal."

Unfortunately for the millions of women and men who depend on Planned Parenthood for health care services, the organization will likely face difficult times in the coming years. Efforts by Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood built momentum last year, even if they were eventually blocked by Democrats — and that was during the Barack Obama administration. Considering Trump's current, staunchly pro-life stance on abortion, he is likely to push for Planned Parenthood's defunding when he becomes head of state, and with a conservative majority in Congress, he may not face many obstacles in doing so.


Trump himself is worrying enough, but as a notoriously unpredictable public figure, there's no telling exactly what will happen. However, further danger to Planned Parenthood's funding lies in his running mate, Mike Pence, who has a history of extreme pro-life views. As governor of Indiana, he signed into law a bill severely restricting access to abortion in the state, even in the case of fetal disability; it also required health care clinics to have a funeral or cremation services for fetuses after an abortion or miscarriage. (A federal judge later blocked the law from going into effect.) He has targeted Planned Parenthood in particular since at least 2007, when he introduced an amendment stripping the organization of all federal funding. In 2011, his efforts became successful when the bill passed in the House of Representatives.

During his time as governor of Indiana, five Planned Parenthood clinics were forced to shut down as their government funding was slashed. His war on Planned Parenthood is so laser-focused that in July, he told Vox he wouldn't stop until the organization stopped providing abortions. "As long as they aspire to do that, I’ll be after them," he told Vox.


Then there's the fact that Republicans still control Congress, and Trump's victory is virtually guaranteed to create a conservative majority on the Supreme Court. Bills to defund Planned Parenthood have been halted in the past, but with all three branches of government conservative-leaning, there's a chance a bill could pass. Not all politicians are fanatically pro-life, of course, but law professor Daria Roithmayr told Pop Sugar that Trump's picks for judges are more likely to be sympathetic to pro-life views. "I expect to see more of his judges permit more ... interference with women's reproductive rights," she said.

But there is some good news for women's rights: According to polls last year, nearly 60 percent of Americans oppose cutting off Planned Parenthood's funding, and only 33 percent support the idea. It's possible that if Trump's administration delivers on its strong pro-life promises, Republicans could see a backlash during midterm elections in 2018.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images

According to the Huffington Post, Planned Parenthood receives approximately $500 million a year from federal grants for health care services. You can donate to the organization here, and to make your voice heard, consider contacting your local lawmakers.