In the same week that President Donald Trump's administration has celebrated Women's History Month and declared its commitment to women's empowerment, the Senate has decided to roll back Obama-era protections on Title X funds to women's health providers. On Thursday, the Senate voted to allow states to withhold Title X funds from Planned Parenthood.
In a rare event, Vice President Mike Pence served as the tiebreaker in a procedural vote after the Senate was deadlocked on a 50-50 split decision. Although the Senate is divided 52-48, with Republicans in the majority, two Republicans (Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska) sided with Democrats on this one, citing their interest in providing funding for family planning services to all. The bill was officially passed later Thursday.
So how will this affect Planned Parenthood? According to NPR, a little more than 40 percent of Planned Parenthood's funding comes from the government. About 75 percent of the government funding comes from Medicaid. Some of the last 25 percent of funding comes from Title X. This means Planned Parenthood, thankfully, will not be in danger of losing the majority of their funding after this is signed into law.
Title X is the country's only federal family planning program. Four million low-income people are helped by Title X each year. And Planned Parenthood provides care for about a third of them. According to Vox, Title X recipients are in a tough position because they don't qualify for Medicaid, yet don't make enough money to pay for contraception and other family planning resources. The funding Planned Parenthood receives allows them to make choices about their reproductive future, which is so important.
This bill may not defund Planned Parenthood, but any financial blow to an organization devoted to women's health that provides services like cancer screenings, pap smears, and access to contraceptives to low-income families is not something that anyone should be happy about. It's important to remember that none of Planned Parenthood's federal funding can be used to provide abortions, thanks to the Hyde Amendment. So when states deny Planned Parenthood the funding from Title X, they're denying the organization the ability to provide important health services to people.
Congress is using the Congressional Review Act to quickly ship this bill along. It allows the government to review a federal agency rule within 60 days of its passing and overturn it with a simple majority. Now the bill will move to President Trump's desk, where he will surely sign it into law.
It is truly sad that the GOP has decided to place ideology above women's health, and it is certainly not a great way to wrap up Women's History Month. Hopefully Trump's administration will move on to focus on other issues and lay off women's health for a while, but considering all the restrictive legislation he's signed so far in his presidency focusing on reproductive freedom, that's not likely.