VP Pence Casts 'Awful' Tie-Breaking Vote to Defund Critical Family Planning Program

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VP Pence Casts 'Awful' Tie-Breaking Vote to Defund Critical Family Planning Program

Senate pushes forward with effort to allow states to slash funding for "lifeline" reproductive health clinics

Vice President Mike Pence

"Pence is the first vice president ever to break a tie to undermine women's access to care." (Photo: Getty)

To widespread outcry, a procedural vote on a GOP effort to slash funding for the Title X family planning program, which funds clinics that largely serve poor women and women of color, passed the Senate Thursday after Vice President Mike Pence was forced to cast a tie-breaking vote.

The measure repeals an Obama-era rule that blocks states from defunding healthcare providers for political reasons. The Republican-led effort appeared designed to target Planned Parenthood clinics, which receive funds under Title X.

"The Title X family planning program is a vital source of family planning and related preventive care for low-income, uninsured, and young people across the country," wrote the Leadership Conference for Civil and Human Rights in an open letter to Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).

"Every year, more than four million individuals access life-saving care such as birth control, cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV at Title X-funded health centers," the advocacy group observed. "Seventy-five percent of Planned Parenthood patients are at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level and half of their health centers are located in rural or underserved areas. People of color comprise forty percent of Planned Parenthood patients."

"For decades, the Title X Family Planning Program has been a lifeline for women, helping them to have healthier families and lead healthier lives," wrote the Center for American Progress' (CAP)

The Title X amendment to the Public Health Service Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, and "it is the only federal domestic program focused solely on providing people with critical reproductive health services related to family planning and contraception, including physical exams, prescriptions, laboratory exams, contraceptive supplies, and referrals when medically needed," Gillette-Pierce and Taylor noted.

Democratic senators testified passionately against the attempt to cut Title X funding:

In fact, the effort to dismantle Title X funding proved so unpopular that two female Republican senators—Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine—refused to vote for the measure to move forward with it.

As a result, the effort gridlocked, and virulently anti-choice Pence was forced to cast a tie-breaking vote. "Pence is the first vice president ever to break a tie to undermine women's access to care," tweeted Planned Parenthood.

The roll-call for the vote can be found here.

A final vote on repealing the Obama-era rule could take place as early as Thursday afternoon, according to The Hill.

Meanwhile, people are outraged, and taking to the streets to protest the latest GOP attempt to severely limit access to women's healthcare.

"Republicans have literally had to fly in a senator to vote and haul the Vice President—Mr. Defund-Planned-Parenthood-himself—to the Senate floor to cast a tie-breaking vote. All of this makes the GOP desperation and obsession with taking away reproductive health care crystal clear," NARAL Pro-Choice America national communications director Kaylie Hanson Long charged in a statement.

Opponents of the measure are also tweeting under the hashtags #TitleX, #ProtectOurCare, and #HandsOffMyBC:

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