Obama's parting gift to Planned Parenthood

The Obama administration has issued a last-minute regulation aimed at preventing states from defunding Planned Parenthood. The rule, which is set to take effect two days before President-elect Donald Trump takes office, would prevent states from cutting off federal health funds to organizations that also provide abortions. From the NY Times:

The department initiated the rule-making effort in September after more than a dozen Republican-dominated states in recent years had moved to “defund” Planned Parenthood by blocking clinics from receiving public money…

“This rule will strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country,” Dr. Karen A. Scott, chief medical officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.

Dr. Scott added that “public comments showed overwhelming support for finalizing the rule” — 91 percent of the roughly 145,000 responses received since September, according to department officials.

Any illusion that this rule was about anything other than protecting Planned Parenthood can be put aside by looking at the response from PP’s Cecile Richards. Today she praised the new rule in a tweet, calling Obama “a champion for women’s health.”

So is the Trump administration stuck with this? Not really. The rule can be rolled back in one of two ways. One option is to restart the process and create a new rule to replace it. That would take several months and would involve public comment, which is just the sort of opportunity Planned Parenthood would relish to rally the troops early in the Trump administration. The other option is a vote by the House and Senate disapproving of the rule.

So, to the already contentious fights over Trump’s cabinet nominees, his replacement for Justice Scalia, Obamacare repeal and tax reform, you can probably add a big battle over Planned Parenthood’s funding to Congress’ 2017 agenda.