This week the House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.J.Res. 43, sponsored by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN), a disapproval resolution of the final rule submitted by Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) relating to compliance with Title X requirements by project recipients in selecting sub-recipients. Title X of the Public Health Service Act provides federal funds to states for family planning grants. Once states receive the funds, they have the ability to prioritize sub-recipients, directing funds to organizations like community health centers and family health clinics. While federal law prohibits government funding for abortion, it does allows certain public dollars, like the Title X grants, to support abortion providers if the funds are directed to non-abortion related health services. Under this exception, Planned Parenthood has been eligible to receive Title X funds, per the states’ discretion.
However, after the Center for Medical Progress released videos suggesting that Planned Parenthood Federation of America affiliates are harvesting and selling the body parts of aborted unborn children, many states, including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin, took steps to ensure that Title X funds were flowing to real health care clinics – – and not the abortion industry. But, as Melanie Israel at The Heritage Foundation explains in her article Obama’s Last Gift to Planned Parenthood, the Obama Administration’s HHS stepped in to protect Planned Parenthood’s federal funding stream:
“President Barack Obama has given Planned Parenthood a parting gift in the final weeks of his administration….the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a rule that would prohibit states from blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X family planning services grant money for reasons “unrelated” to its ability to provide family planning services….The rule was proposed in response to several states’ attempt to defund Planned Parenthood after the nation’s largest abortion provider was featured in a series of undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress last year.”
Despite this parting gift, Israel goes on to explain that the new Congress, and President Trump, have a unique opportunity to overturn this rule by using the Congressional Review Act:
“According to the Congressional Review Act, Congress and a new president can overturn rules issued in the waning days of a previous administration…The Congressional Research Service has estimated that anything submitted to Congress after the end of May 2016 can be undone in this manner, meaning there are many rules and regulations that the incoming Congress could and should vote to rescind….Incoming members should put Planned Parenthood’s parting gift on the list of items to address using the Congressional Review Act when Congress returns in the new year.”
Overturning this rule is the appropriate step for Congress to take, to both protect life and reassert that the states have Tenth Amendment rights to allocate Title X family planning grants in such a manner as to prioritize community health clinics and true family planning over the industrial abortion industry represented by Planned Parenthood. The HHS rule is a classic example of excessive federal rulemaking and executive overreach for partisan political gain, making it a perfect target for nullification under the CRA.
Heritage Action supports H.J.Res. 43 and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard.