On Thursday, Senate Republicans, determined to end the power grab by the federal government and return power to the states, held together (with two exceptions) and voted to eliminate an Obama administration rule that banned states from blocking funding for family planning clinics that also provide abortions.
The vote was highly dramatic, and reminiscent in its way of the vote for the Declaration of Independence, when Delaware representative Caesar Rodney, sick with cancer, rode 80 miles through a thunderstorm on the night of July 1, 1776, to make sure the Delaware delegation voted for independence, crucial since the vote of the states had to be unanimous.
In this case it was Georgia Senator Johnny Isakson, who had undergone two back surgeries, receiving permission from his doctors to travel, but only for one day. The vote was delayed for an hour so Isakson could vote; he arrived in a wheelchair and was transferred to a walker, then gave a thumbs-up in the Senate chamber.
Isakson’s vote ensured a 50-50 tie, since two female GOP senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, voted with the Democrats against the bill. Because of the tie, Vice President Mike Pence’s vote ensured that the measure would pass.
In 2016, before the Obama Administration issued its regulation, 13 states restricted family planning grants to Planned Parenthood. The bill passed by the Senate, H.J. Res. 43, was introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), in February. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) sponsored the measure in the Senate.
Black had stated, “Despite the histrionics you may hear on the other side of the aisle today, with this resolution we are not voting to defund Planned Parenthood, voting to cut Title X funding, or voting to restrict abortion rights … 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.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, celebrated, “Today, Congress is sending a resolution to President Trump ensuring that states are not forced to fund America’s abortion giant, Planned Parenthood, with Title X tax dollars.” Senator Joni Ernst added, “It should be the right of our states to allocate sub-grants under the Title X program in the way that best fits the needs of the people living there. Unfortunately, like many other rules issued during the Obama administration, this rule attempted to empower federal bureaucrats in Washington and silence our states.”
The states will now be permitted to exclude healthcare centers that perform abortions from receiving Title X money. Title X grants services, but may be utilized for contraception and cancer and other disease screenings and treatments.
The measure will now need the signature of President Trump.