Vice President Mike Pence seems bound and determined to limit women's ability to have an abortion, even if it comes at the cost of revoking funding for family planning services and women's preventive health services. In a tie-breaking vote in the Senate on Thursday, Pence set the wheels in motion to allow states to deny abortion providers Title X federal funding for family planning services. The decision isn't official yet, though, as Trump still needs to sign it in to law. But does Title X even cover abortions in the first place? In his quest to defund Planned Parenthood, Pence may have killed a whole swath of family planning services along with it.
The short answer to whether Title X covers abortions is no. The portion of Title X that Pence targeted — a regulation installed during Obama's presidency — was designed to ensure that health care providers could still receive funding even if they provide abortions.
But Title X funds could not go directly to fund abortions themselves, unless it was in the case of rape, incest, or threat to the mother. This has been the case since the program was implemented — no federal funds can be used for abortions. That money can flow, however, to clinics for other health care and reproductive services.
In his final days in office, President Obama wanted to see to it that Republicans could not strip health care providers of these funds, regardless of whether they preformed abortions. Oftentimes, Title X grants help low-income or uninsured women who would otherwise not be able to receive health care or family planning options such as birth control.
Aside from the fact that abortion is a constitutional right, Obama's protection of Title X funding had another good reason behind it: Abortion is often only one of the many services these clinics provide. They also provide access to contraception, fertility and pregnancy care, and cervical cancer screenings, just to name a few services. Ideally, partisan politics should not get in the way of providing a myriad of family planning services. But clearly and unfortunately, we do not live in that ideal world.
That was no matter to Vice President Pence, who struck down the provision anyway. If the vice president gets his way, states will soon be able to withhold funding from these clinics at their own discretion. Conservative states (where it is often more difficult to get an abortion as it is) will likely be hit the hardest.
The bill will soon be sent to President Trump's desk, where he is all but guaranteed to sign it.