Trump signs measure reversing Obama era rule protecting women’s access to basic health care

By Lisa Lambert, Reuters

President Donald Trump on April 13  signed a resolution allowing states to restrict how federal funds for contraception and reproductive health are spent.

“This is a major pro-life victory,” said the House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

Abortion rights advocates had an opposite reaction.

Under the Congressional Review Act, which allows lawmakers to repeal newly minted rules, both the House and Senate had passed a resolution killing Obama’s regulation that had protected federal grants for clinics in states wanting to block the funding.

States such as Texas in recent years have kept the grants from going to clinics as part of the country’s longstanding fight over abortion. Broadly, many Republicans seek to restrict abortion or make it illegal while Democrats have fought to keep abortion legal.

The resolution had narrowly passed the U.S. Congress, with Vice President Mike Pence called to the Senate on March 30 to break a tie vote in the chamber, where Republicans hold a slim majority.

The grants, known as “Title X” funds, were already barred from going directly to abortion services but under the now-null regulation family planning clinics had been assured they could receive money even in the face of state objections.

“Allowing states to withhold Title X funding from family planning clinics won’t make anyone safer or healthier — it will instead place essential services out of reach,” said Diane Horvath-Cosper, a medical doctor and fellow at Physicians for Reproductive Health.

She said for many people the clinics are the only place where they can receive affordable health services such as disease testing.

Planned Parenthood issued a statement that denounced the signing of the resolution. The statement said the bill Trump signed does not “defund” Planned Parenthood, but this “latest move could embolden states to try to block access to health care through Title X, both at Planned Parenthood health centers and independent clinics. These types of actions are already illegal, as a court in Florida found just this past summer.”

Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said, “People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care and this bill is just the latest example. Planned Parenthood strongly opposes President Trump’s willingness to undermine millions of women’s access to birth control through the Title X family planning program. Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and by signing this bill, President Trump disregards their health and well-being.”

Consider actions in the past three months by the Trump administration and anti-women’s health members of Congress:

• Trump reinstated and expanded the global gag rule, meaning a range of health organizations combating HIV or the spread of Zika will be banned from all U.S. global health funding if they also happen to provide counseling, referrals, or services for safe and legal abortion.

• The House considered a bill to repeal the ACA that would have prohibited women from getting care at Planned Parenthood through the Medicaid program, ended maternity coverage for millions of women and imposed a ban on insurance coverage for abortion.

• Extremists in Congress attempted to revive the failed ACA repeal bill by trading away women’s health and proposing to gut the essential health benefits provision, which would roll back maternity care, raise insurance rates for women and reduce access to birth control and other reproductive health care.

• The Senate confirmed anti-women’s health nominee Judge Neil Gorsuch, to the Supreme Court.

• The Trump administration eliminated U.S. funding for UNFPA, an organization whose mission is to champion maternal and child health across the globe.

Laguens said, “Women marched in historic numbers the day after the inauguration because they feared the worst. Their worst fears are now coming true. We are facing the worst political attack on women’s health in a generation as lawmakers have spent the past three months trading away women’s health and rights at every turn. That’s why women are the core of the resistance and have have been organizing and speaking out since the day after the election. They know speaking up and speaking out can change the direction of this government.”