On Thursday, President Trump signed legislation that reversed a late Obama-era measure and aimed at cutting federal funding to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions. The legislation would allow states to cut funding to abortion providers.
The original measure, signed by then-President Obama, barred local and state governments from cutting federal funding for family planning services. That funding was guaranteed under Title X, the only federal grant program that solely provides individuals with comprehensive family planning and preventive health services. Those services include contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and pregnancy care. The measure Trump signed had passed through the Senate last month after a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
The move was a continuation of Trump’s efforts last month to pass the Affordable Care Act repeal. He used the cutting of federal funding to Planned Parenthood as a bargaining tool to get the Freedom Caucus, a conservative Republican subgroup, to sign off on the repeal. Mr. Trump has also previously offered to keep federal funding to Planned Parenthood if they stopped performing abortions. Half of Planned Parenthood’s affiliates do not perform abortions, and federal funding is not used to reimburse abortion services.
Federal funding, in the case of Planned Parenthood particularly, is used to reimburse services that patients utilize, like cancer screenings, gynecological care and contraception. Those patients can use public programs like Medicaid to pay for their visits; the bill goes from Planned Parenthood to Medicaid, and Medicaid to the federal government. Planned Parenthood cannot ask for reimbursement on abortion services. Cutting federal funding only serves to force Planned Parenthood to shoulder the burden of providing quality care to patients who cannot, without government help, afford access to such care.
The move also comes after an interview with the Wall Street Journal, where Trump said that healthcare reform was back on his list of goals. He has previously said that he would put the project behind him for the moment after it was pulled from the House of Representatives because it did not have enough votes to pass and focus instead on tax reform.
Restriction of funding to abortion providers lowers the number of legal abortions performed, but does not reduce the number of abortions. Without access to safe options, women are forced to either cross state lines to get to an abortion clinic or undergo dangerous illegal abortions. According to the World Health Organization, 21.6 million women “experience an unsafe abortion worldwide each year; 18.5 million of these occur in developing countries.” Across the globe, 47,000 women die from “complications of unsafe abortion each year.”
The only way that is shown to lessen the number of abortions is a decrease in pregnancy, which is only possible when comprehensive sex education and long-lasting birth control like IUDs are available. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, when teenagers have access to long-lasting reversible contraceptives, unplanned pregnancy was reduced by nearly 80 percent and abortions by 75 percent.
According to the Pew Research Center, as of 2016, 57 percent of people said abortion should be legal in all or most cases. Allowing for states to restrict federal funding does nothing to help women but does everything to appease pro-life conservatives.
“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,” said Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. “Four million people depend on the Title X family program, and by signing this bill, President Trump disregards their health and well-being.”