WASHINGTON — Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking Senate vote Thursday to advance legislation that would allow states to withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood and other health care providers that perform abortions.
The Senate, after a procedural vote, will now proceed to a measure that would dismiss an Obama-era rule banning states from denying federal funds to such organizations. Pence's vote was needed for the Senate to agree to bring the bill to the floor.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called the measure a "shameful, dangerous resolution."
"We are not going to give up," said Murray, the top-ranking member on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. "We are going to keep making sure that women's voices are heard."
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.
Republicans said the Obama rule should be overturned to allow states the right to steer funds away from abortion providers, if they choose.
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.”