Vote overturns Planned Parenthood shield; Boozman, Cotton support scrapping rule

WASHINGTON -- With Vice President Mike Pence casting the deciding vote, the U.S. Senate voted to overturn a recent federal regulation that has shielded Planned Parenthood from funding cuts.

The measure is now headed to the White House.

U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, both Arkansas Republicans, supported scrapping the rule, which seeks to keep family-planning dollars flowing to organizations that also perform abortions.

Although Republicans hold 52 of the 100 seats in the U.S. Senate, two of them -- Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, voted against the proposal, resulting in a 50-50 deadlock.

With the senators deadlocked, Pence traveled to Capitol Hill and voted "yes," breaking the tie.

The House already had passed the legislation, 230-188, with 12 not voting. The four U.S. representatives from Arkansas, all Republicans, had all voted in February to reject the Department of Health and Human Services rule.

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Rose Mimms, executive director of Arkansas Right to Life, said Thursday's vote was "wonderful news."

"It's a victory and I expect more to come. ... This is a great, great step in the right direction," she said. "Planned Parenthood is the largest abortion provider and they don't deserve taxpayer money in my opinion and lots of other people's opinions."

In a written statement, Planned Parenthood Federation of America Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens said lawmakers were putting many poor American women at risk.

"Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and this move by DC politicians would endanger their health care. This would take away birth control access for a woman who wants to plan her family and her future," she said.

Each year, the federal government gives money to states earmarked for family-planning services. The states then dole the money out on a local level. But several states with anti-abortion-rights legislatures, including Arkansas, have tried to block funds for Planned Parenthood.

The Arkansas effort led to a federal lawsuit. In September, U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker issued a preliminary injunction, preventing the state from defunding the organization.

In a written statement after Thursday's vote, Cotton said the legislation deserved to pass.

"States should be free to decide which organizations receive federal funding for family planning services. And they shouldn't be required to [give] taxpayer money to groups like Planned Parenthood that perform abortions. I'm pleased we were able to take another chunk out of the Obama administration's overzealous regulatory agenda," he said.

Boozman's written statement made no mention of abortion, portraying the vote as an effort to roll back an "extreme overreach" by the administration of Barack Obama.

"This mandate, like so many others, ignores the will of the states by imposing a one-size-fits-all approach to the delivery of health care," he said. "Washington should not attempt to override decisions made in Little Rock or any of the 49 other state capitols, especially when it comes to public health."

Metro on 03/31/2017

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