WASHINGTON, D.C. (NEXSTAR) — A group of Senate Republicans is pushing a bill to further distance federal funding from abortion services.
Four million low-income Americans depend on Title X funds, which provide everything from STD and cancer screenings to birth control. The legislation would prohibit the money from being used in clinics where abortions are performed.
On the campaign trail, President Trump promised to defund Planned Parenthood. His administration added a new rule in February that would block federal funding under the Title X Family Planning Program to clinics that perform abortions or provide abortion referrals.
“Really just says to the abortion clinics you have to physically and financially separate your ‘family planning services’ from your abortion services,” said Kellyanne Conway Counselor to President Trump.
In April, a federal judge stopped the regulations from taking effect while lawsuits made their way through the courts.
“The majority of patients that Title X serves are people of color, Hispanic and Latino. So the rule imposes yet another level of discrimination,” said Planned Parenthood President and CEO, Dr. Leana Wen.
But now, the push has moved from the courts to Congress.
“We want to make certain that that money goes to women’s health care and does not go to pay for abortions,” said U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn.
This week, Tennessee Senator Marsha Blackburn introduced a bill with some of her Republican colleagues that would turn the Trump rule into law.
The legislation prohibits the federal funds from going to any entity, either directly or indirectly, unless it guarantees to not perform or pay for an abortion.
It does include exceptions for rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Hospitals would also be exempt unless they provide funds to non-hospital entities that perform abortions.
Blackburn wants to divert the federal funds from clinics like Planned Parenthood to community health centers across the country.
“They also say why should it go to an abortion clinic when we’re the ones that provide health care checkups and provide much of the services women who are in the underserved community need access to,” said Blackburn.
Planned Parenthood has always maintained that its clinics do not use federal money for abortions but for other services like screenings for STDs and cancer and low-cost birth control.
Full statement from Dr. Wen about the specific bill:
“Why are Senate Republicans focusing on restricting access to health care when voters clearly want more access to health care, including access to safe, legal abortion? We have seen 26 abortion bans enacted in states in 2019 — that’s just in the first half of the year. These restrictions have nothing to do with medicine and everything to do with shaming pregnant people, criminalizing doctors, and blocking access to abortion care. We have seen the House of Representatives move legislation to protect and strengthen critical access to reproductive health care and look to the Senate to follow their lead. Reproductive health care is a fundamental right for all people, no matter where they live or how much money they make.”
As the Trump rule hangs in the balance, Blackburn and other GOP senators will work to gather support around the bill before an anticipated vote in the fall.