If you're someone who cares about the ability of women to access reproductive health care, then this is news that you ought to cheer: Maryland just promised state funding for Planned Parenthood in the event that the federal government halts its reimbursements. The foremost women's health provider in the country, the effort to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal reimbursements (often casually described as "defunding Planned Parenthood") has become a political hot-button in recent years, thanks to a Republican Party seemingly eager to curtail abortion access by any means, and under almost any pretense.
This is precisely why the state of Maryland, controlled by the Democrats at the legislative level, and Republican governor Larry Hogan at the executive level, just ensured that their state will pick up Planned Parenthood's funding if the federal government blocks it. The bill is now law, although not because it received Hogan's signature ― he merely let the bill sit on his desk without vetoing it long enough that it automatically became law.
But become law it did, regardless of precisely how. And that's a good lesson for any states with Democratic-controlled legislatures right now, even if the governor happens to be a Republican in a moderate or light blue state. If the feds trying to yank Planned Parenthood's funding away, it may fall to state governments to pick up the slack.
It's unclear at the moment whether the GOP would be able to cobble together the necessary 50 votes in the U.S. Senate to pass a Planned Parenthood defunding within a larger bill, let alone attempting it in a standalone bill. Republican senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski have both expressed doubts in the past about supporting such a policy change, and the Republican Senate majority sits at just 52 seats right now. In the event of a 50-50 tie, of course, Vice President Mike Pence would cast the deciding vote.
And, staunch social conservative that he is, he would eagerly vote yes if he got the chance. Pence has openly supported legislation that defines human life as beginning at conception, even co-sponsoring the Life at Conception Act back in 2011.
In other words, there's a lot of tumult happening right now. And for any states invested in protecting access to health care for low and middle-income women, Maryland's step this week, represents a clear path forward. After all, if the federal government ever tried passing a law prohibiting states from funding Planned Parenthood, it'd at the very least put all those small-government, states' rights conservatives in quite a pickle.