By Nicole Gaudiano, USA TODAY
Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking Senate vote Thursday to pass legislation that will allow states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that perform abortions.
The measure, which now goes to President Trump for his signature, dismisses an Obama-era rule banning states from denying federal funds to such organizations.
Pence’s vote was needed to break a 50-50 tie. Republicans Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska broke with their party, voting against the measure.
Republicans have said the Obama rule should be overturned to allow states the right to steer funds away from abortion providers, if they choose.
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said the measure reverses a rule that “attempted to empower federal bureaucrats in Washington and silence our states.”
Democrats condemned the measure throughout the day, with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York calling it “another example of the Republican war on women.”
“It would let states treat women as second-class citizens who don’t deserve the same access to health care as men,” he said.
The House in February had voted 230-188 largely along party lines to reject the rule under the Congressional Review Act, which allows Congress to overturn recently enacted regulations.
The rule prohibits states from withholding family-planning funding from providers for reasons other than their ability to offer family-planning services. It took effect Jan. 18, two days before President Obama left office.
Since 2011, 13 states have restricted access to such grants, disrupting or reducing services in several instances.
Women’s marches across the country have protested cuts to reproductive health care services.
Pence, an evangelical Christian, was a leader in efforts to defund Planned Parenthood while serving in Congress and he co-sponsored “personhood” legislation calling for constitutional rights at the moment of fertilization. As governor of Indiana, he signed several anti-abortion bills, including one that banned abortions solely because of genetic abnormalities — legislation that was suspended by a federal judge.
In January, Pence became the highest-ranking official to appear in person at the annual March for Life demonstration. He told attendees then that the Trump administration would work with Congress to permanently bar taxpayer funding of abortion and abortion providers.
“Life is winning in America,” he said then, to cheers. “And today is a celebration of the progress that we have made in the cause.”