President Trump on Thursday signed a bill that would allow states to withhold family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions.The bill overturns a rule that the previous administration enacted shortly before the end of former President Barack Obama's term, which prevented states from disqualifying an organization from federal family planning grants, called Title X, if they provide abortions. The rule was aimed at protecting Planned Parenthood from various defunding efforts among Republicans.
The president of Susan B. Anthony List, which opposes abortion, called Obama's move a "parting gift to the abortion industry."
"The resolution signed today simply ensures that states are not forced to fund an abortion business with Title X taxpayer dollars," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA List. "Rather, states have the option to spend money on comprehensive healthcare clinics that better serve women and girls."
Planned Parenthood is the country's largest abortion provider, but its clinics also provide contraceptive services, HIV and pregnancy testing, and cancer screenings, which the federal family planning grants help pay for. Federal dollars are prohibited by law from going toward most abortions.
When supporting defunding measures, anti-abortion groups and lawmakers have argued that federal funds being used for other purposes allow clinics to free up dollars to help pay for abortions.
"Taxpayers should not be forced to fund abortion, plain and simple," House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said following the signing of the bill. "We remain united and steadfast in our commitment to life and religious liberty."
Planned Parenthood said in a statement that it opposes the measure.
"People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access healthcare, and this bill is just the latest example," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America "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."
The bill passed narrowly through Congress. While Trump has authority to undo certain regulations enacted under Obama, the Title X rule required a joint resolution of disapproval by the House and Senate and agreement from the president. The legislation passed the Senate last month after Vice President Mike Pence issued a tie-breaking vote.
Abortion foes saw the signing as the second victory in a week for their cause, following the swearing-in of Neil Gorsuch Monday to the Supreme Court.
"Prioritizing funding away from Planned Parenthood to comprehensive healthcare alternatives is a winning issue," said Dannenfelser, who was at the signing. "We expect to see Congress continue its efforts to redirect additional taxpayer funding away from Planned Parenthood through pro-life healthcare reform after the spring break recess."
Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, also cheered the move. "I think the president's signature today is an important step and it shows that the president is keeping his campaign promises," she said. "This shows that we want states to be in charge of their own decision making."
Penny Nance, CEO of Concerned Women for America, also was at the signing.
Gabby Morrongiello contributed to this report.