On December 14, 2016, President Obama made a decisive move that would guarantee Planned Parenthood funding for at least the next two years. It does this by prohibiting states from withdrawing Title X federal funds from organizations that provide vital services, like providing contraception, screening for cancer, and STD tests. Current regulations bar clinics that only provide abortions from receiving federal grant money, and Republicans want that rule expanded to cover any clinic that provides abortions.
The rule, officially known as "Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients," was initiated on September 7, 2016. It was thought that if the rule hadn't been finalized by this time, an incoming Clinton administration would sign it into legislature. Unfortunately, even the best-laid plans go awry, so President Obama finalized the rule just two days before the deadline. According to the rule-making process defined by the Federal Register, any final rule must wait 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register before it goes into effect.
The move was immediately decried by Republicans who want to remove Planned Parenthood funding completely. Many have vowed to work swiftly once President-elect Trump is in office to repeal and roll back this rule.
According to a report by the Washington Post, Donald Trump has already vowed to undo many of President Obama's actions, pledging that he will "cancel every unconstitutional executive action, memorandum and order issued by President Obama."
In an interview with BuzzFeed, Rep. Diane Black, a Republican known for her initiatives devoted to de-funding family planning clinics, said in part,
"...our pro-life majorities in Congress will be positioned to work with President-Elect Trump and pro-life nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, to not only roll back this latest overreach but also to enact new legal protections for these most vulnerable members of our society."A closer look at the rule-making process reveals that it won't be that easy for her, however. The Administrative Procedure Act dictates the process of repealing an existing rule. Additionally, neither President-elect Trump nor Congress is allowed to simply remove an inconvenient rule. The Supreme Court ruled that there must be a reasonable basis for the rule's removal. The process for repealing a rule is as complex as the process for finalizing the rule in the first place.
First, the secretary in charge of the applicable section (in this case, nominee Dr. Tom Price) would have to create another rule that contradicted the current rule. He would then have to follow the procedure laid out and publish the proposal in the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM). Once the proscribed amount of time had passed, the rule would be finalized by then President Trump and go into effect 30 days later.
That means that by the time the hypothetical new rule that would allow states to defund Planned Parenthood is in place, most state budgets for the following fiscal year will have been proposed and finalized. For example, in Tennessee, the state where Rep. Diane Black is from, the state budget must be in the hands of the various appropriations committees by end of May of each year. Once it is reviewed and ratified by the state governor, it goes into effect for that fiscal year.
There is no doubt that abortion and abortion-related topics continue to divide the United States along an ideological line. Many states, emboldened by Trump's win, have begun to clamp down on the reproductive rights of women. Oklahoma recently passed a bill requiring anti-abortion messages to be posted in public bathrooms. By making this move now, President Obama has almost certainly ensured Planned Parenthood funding at least until the end of FY '17-'18, which is a victory for those who champion the pro-choice option.
[Featured Image by Eric Gay/AP Images]