Vice President Pence Breaks Senate Tie, Helping to Pass Law That Will Limit Women’s Access to…
On Thursday, March 30th, Vice President Mike Pence cast two important votes in the Senate that will have a direct impact on women and families in the United States.
The Senate was split 50–50 over a resolution to reverse a rule that prevented states from withholding family-planning funding from organizations that also provide abortions. Pence’s first vote ended the debate over the bill and his second helped passed the legislation.
When using the word family planning it is important to be aware that it is an all encompassing term which includes a whole host of critical women’s health services such as preconception counseling, preventative and comprehensive health screenings and emergency care. Access to affordable healthcare options is vital to providing women with the care that they need to be healthy. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, preventive care services, preconception care, well-woman care, family planning, and subspecialty care are all critical to women’s health.
The rule in question, created under the Obama administration, required state and local governments to distribute federal Title X funds to family planning providers (to pay for cancer screenings, pregnancy testing and counseling, contraception, basic infertility services, STD testing and treatment, and other reproductive health services that are integral to healthy families and good birth outcomes) regardless of whether or not abortion services are also offered by that provider. Under the Hyde Amendment, federal funds are already prevented from being allocated for abortion services, so Title X never actually ever funded abortions. Before the rule was implemented last year, 13 states had restricted Title X funds to Planned Parenthood and similar full service providers.
The bill passed now allows conservative states and local governments to restrict federal Title X funding from any provider that offers abortion services, despite the fact that those funds cover women’s health care services and do not cover abortion procedures. This is not the first time that reproductive health organizations, including Planned Parenthood, are facing these challenges. There have been efforts to eliminate the Title X program entirely for years, and the stripping of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding (in the way of Medicaid reimbursement) was part of the failed American Health Care Act, which was pulled from the floor before voting even took place. This longstanding, sustained effort to defund Planned Parenthood is having an immediate and significant impact on women, particularly when it providing women access to healthcare options. With the U.S. maternal mortality rate already on the rise, further restricting access to affordable and good quality care will only increase these numbers.
Currently, Planned Parenthood provides abortion services as well as other critical healthcare services for many Americans — particularly for working class and low-income people. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 72% of U.S. counties had at least one safety-net family planning center supported by Title X in 2010, and 94% of women in need of publicly funded family planning care lived in those same counties. It remains to be seen what will happen to women and their families, once funding is pulled from these local clinics.