GOP bill would allow states to defund Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House voted Thursday to make it easier for states to deny federal family-planning funds to groups such as Planned Parenthood that also perform abortions.

A rule imposed by the Obama administration says that states cannot deny funding to clinics for reasons unrelated to their ability to provide basic family planning services. Federal dollars cannot be used to pay for abortions, except in restricted circumstances.

Tennessee Rep. Diane Black and other Republicans said the rule, finalized in December, unfairly restricts how states can spend federal family-planning funds.

"We must return to a point where states are empowered to make their own health-care decisions ... without fear of reprisal from the federal government," Black said.

The resolution she sponsored merely allows states to reallocate money targeted for family-planning clinics to other, more comprehensive providers such as community health centers, Black said.

Supporters, mostly Democrats, said the current rule protects access to health care for millions of women.

"Despite their promise to focus on jobs and the economy, Republican leaders have made attacking women's health care their top priority during the 115th Congress," said Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo.

Repealing the rule would leave family planning clinics across the country vulnerable to Republican-backed efforts at the state level to strip them of funding, DeGette said. "Sadly, if the roll-back of this program succeeds, those who will suffer most are the uninsured, people with low incomes and those living in rural and remote areas," she said.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., said a majority of Americans oppose giving tax dollars to Planned Parenthood.

"Planned Parenthood is 'Child Abuse Inc.,'" Smith said, citing secretly recorded videos showing organization officials discussing fetal tissue donation. Several congressional investigations failed to reveal anything illegal.

The repeal measure, approved 230-188, now goes to the Senate. Democrats Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota supported repeal, while Republicans John Faso of New York and Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania opposed it.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said GOP "extremists" were trying to make it easier for state politicians to take away women's health care.

"This is wrong, and it's not what the American people want," Richards said in a statement. "When Congress goes home next week, they can count on hearing from people at their offices, the corner store and every town hall."