Following a standstill in the Senate over legislation to lift federal protections on Planned Parenthood funding, Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote to allow the bill to move forward.
On March 30, the Senate voted on legislation that would overturn an Obama administration rule that prohibits states from denying Planned Parenthood federal funding. The chamber was divided, despite the GOP 52-seat majority.
Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska voted against the bill, resulting in an even 50-50 split. Pence cast the deciding vote, marking the second time he had to break a Senate tie. He had previously broken a Senate tie over the confirmation of Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, NBC News reports.
The bill would overturn a rule implemented by the Obama administration in December 2016. The rule forbids states from withholding Title X grants from health care providers who provide abortion services. The legislation had already cleared the House and will require President Donald Trump's signature to become law, according to The Atlantic.
Republican Sen. Diane Black of Tennessee asserts that the Obama administration had overreached by mandating how states can choose to award Title X funding.
"The Obama rule tried to force states ... to send taxpayer money to abortion providers like Planned Parenthood instead of community health centers and other qualified health providers," Black said. "Title X has worked for 45 years until the Obama administration changed the rules, and this legislation will simply undo this ill-conceived change."
The Title X grants given to Planned Parenthood cannot be used for abortion services. The Obama rule did not require states to award federal grants for abortion services but had prohibited them from denying health centers funding purely on the basis that they provide abortions.
Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington blasted the bill as an attempt to override women's rights.
"Women and men are watching what is happening here, watching what Republicans are trying to do and they are paying attention," Murray said.
Collins noted that she had voted against the bill because it could potentially hinder Planned Parenthood's ability to provide family planning and reproductive health services.
"We're talking about federal family planning funds and I don't think that those funds should be subjected to state restrictions," Collins told Politico. "It's important to recognize that there is already a bar against using federal funds for abortion and that bar stays in effect. That's a prohibition that I personally support, but I'm a strong supporter of family planning funds."
Pence has been a vocal opponent of abortion rights, having previously asserted that Trump would appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the landmark 1973 abortion ruling, Roe v. Wade, according to New York magazine.
"I'm pro-life and I don't apologize for it," Pence said during a Michigan town hall meeting in July 2016. "We'll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs."