The clock is ticking for Congress to reverse President Barack Obama’s parting gift to Planned Parenthood.
The House acted last month, but the Senate must take action as well to undo Obama’s move.
In the waning weeks of the Obama administration, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services submitted a final rule. It prohibits states from disqualifying Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers from family planning programs under Title X of the Public Health Service Act for reasons “unrelated” to the organization’s ability to provide family planning services.
Title X is a federal program that focuses on providing family planning and related preventive services to low-income individuals at reduced or no cost.
HHS proposed the rule in response to attempts at the state level to redirect funding—including Title X funding, in some cases—from Planned Parenthood. Many of those efforts came after the nation’s largest abortion provider was featured in a series of undercover videos released in 2015 by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress.
The videos raised questions about whether Planned Parenthood illegally profits off the sale of body parts and other tissue from aborted babies. Both the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives and the Senate Judiciary Committee issued criminal referrals regarding the abortion giant’s involvement in transfers of fetal tissue.
As several pro-life groups stated in formal comments when HHS proposed the rule, it “runs contrary to the right of states in our federal system to optimize health care for women by prioritizing public funding to providers who offer primary and preventive care as well as contraception.”
But the Obama administration was determined to block the states, and instead delivered the parting gift to its political ally, Planned Parenthood
Members of Congress previously warned federal agencies “against finalizing pending rules or regulations in the administration’s last days.” Should agencies refuse to heed the warning, the lawmakers said, they would work to “ensure that Congress scrutinizes your actions—and, if appropriate, overturns them—pursuant to the Congressional Review Act.”
Under the Congressional Review Act, Congress and a new president may overturn rules issued in the waning days of a previous administration. As Heritage Foundation research fellows James Gattuso and Daren Bakst explain, “the CRA provides a streamlined process for Congress to disapprove a final rule without threat of a filibuster.”
The House voted Feb. 16 to undo the HHS rule. The Senate should follow suit in using the Congressional Review Act disapproval process to send the resolution to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.