The Corner

Politics & Policy

Congress Restores Federalism on State Funding of Abortion

The Senate voted on Thursday to overturn an Obama-administration rule that prohibited states from diverting their Title X funds away from groups that perform abortions, in effect forcing states to fund Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. The Health and Human Services regulation said states could not use “criteria in their selection of subrecipients that are unrelated to the ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner.”

This formulation made it impossible for states to defund abortion providers, because those clinics are said to “deliver services . . . in an effective manner.” It’s worth noting, too, that the regulation could easily be interpreted as preventing states from funding crisis-pregnancy centers and other clinics that don’t provide abortions.

With this vote, the House struck as much of a blow for federalism as for life. States have long been understood to possess discretionary power over their allocation of Title X funding for public health, and the original HHS rule was an astonishing overreach — another example of bureaucratic agencies attaching strings to states’ money and forcing them to disburse those funds in a government-approved way.

But, of course, yesterday’s vote is instead being cast by progressives and the media as an attack on women’s health, calling it “blocking Planned Parenthood funding,” “stripping Planned Parenthood of Title X funding,” and “a vote that cuts millions in Planned Parenthood funding,” among other choice examples. None of these are even slightly accurate; the vote merely restored the original balance of federalism on state Title X spending.

If the left were to admit that this was a federalism issue — and, more to the point, that the legislation was crafted to curb massive over-regulation from Washington — it would sound much less horrifying to the average American. So, instead, it is portrayed as a direct assault on Planned Parenthood, a group that has garnered sympathy from Americans through its use of false statistics and misleading marketing campaigns.

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