WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 (UPI) -- The Obama administration moved Wednesday to prevent states from cutting off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, possibly preventing President-elect Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress from defunding the organization.
The administration issued a rule requiring state and local governments to send money to distribute money to Planned Parenthood for services provided to patients which is expect to be finalized to days before Trump takes office.
Federal law does not allow federal funds to be used for abortions, Republicans and other conservative groups have worked for years to choke off any funding for Planned Parenthood because it provides abortion services.
While Trump offered tacit support for the organization during the campaign because of it provides many essential health services to women that have nothing to do with abortion, he has also spoken of working with Republicans in Congress to roll back abortion rights and that he intends to choose Supreme Court nominees who oppose legal abortion.
"President Obama has cemented his legacy as a champion for women's health. This rule protects birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other health care for millions of people. Yet this fight is not over," Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a press release. "We will not back down, and we will continue to fight for our patients' access to care. Every person deserves the right to control their own bodies, their own health, and their own well-being without politicians getting in the way."
Obama warned states in April that withholding Medicaid funds from Planned Parenthood was a violation of federal law, the new law protects funds distributed under Title X, the federal family-planning program.
Title X funds are sent to states and non-governmental organizations, which then send them to healthcare providers. The rule issued by the administration restricts any agency or group from denying a provider the money for any reason "other than its ability to provide Title X services."
"This rule will strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country," Dr. Karen Scott, chief medical officer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a press release. "Public comments showed overwhelming support for finalizing the rule, which clarifies that all organizations able to provide these services should be eligible to compete for funds."
The rule has been available for public comment since September, with HHS officials reporting that 91 percent of the 145,000 responses were in support of finalizing protection of the funding.
Some who oppose the existence of Planned Parenthood because they provide abortion services at all, regardless of who pays for them, as well as contraception and healthcare to millions of lower-income and minority patients called the rule a power-grab by Obama and said they expect it will be rolled back after Trump and the next Congress take office in January.
"We should not be surprised that his administration would lash out with 11th hour power grab on the way out the door, but I am certain this rule will not stand for long," Rep. Diane Black said in a statement. "Come next year, our pro-life majorities in Congress will be positioned to work with President-elect Trump... to not only roll back this latest overreach but also to enact new legal protections for these most vulnerable members of our society."