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US Congress roll back family planning funding

VP Pence needed to break tied vote on protected funding for abortion clinics

Washington: US Republican lawmakers on Thursday successfully rolled back Obama-era rules protecting funding to clinics that offer abortion services, as Vice President Mike Pence broke a Senate tie on the contentious measure.

The rules had prevented states from withholding certain federal money — distributed under a “Title X” program that funds family planning clinics used in large measure by low-income Americans — to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.

Republicans, who control both chambers of Congress, for years have sought to defund Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortion.

At least a dozen states with Republican-controlled legislatures have moved to choke off Title X funds from such clinics, but the Obama rules sought to prohibit such practices.

On Thursday the Senate deadlocked 50-50, with two Republican senators, both women, opposing the measure that rolls back the rules, forcing Pence to cast the deciding vote.

Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer blasted the move as “just 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.”

Republicans framed their argument around states’ rights, but Senate Republican Joni Ernst made clear the goal also aimed at denying federal funds to such clinics if states wanted to do so.

“The Obama administration wanted to do everything it could to secure federal funding streams for Planned Parenthood before they turned over the keys to the Trump administration,” Ernst said on the Senate floor.

“With our vote today, we prevented that from happening.”

The measure has already passed the House of Representatives. It now goes to President Donald Trump’s desk for his signature.