A last hurrah for the Obama administration is a hail mary to save Planned Parenthood

Obama Out.
Obama Out.
Image: Reuters/ Yuri Gripas
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The Obama administration just arranged a little housewarming gift for Donald Trump.

A new rule, which will take effect two days before the president-elect’s inauguration, mandates that states cannot withhold federal funds from Planned Parenthood affiliates and other medical clinics just because they provide abortions. The measure was proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services in September, and finally issued Dec. 14.

No federal dollars can be used for abortion services, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or danger to a woman’s life. However, many health providers such as Planned Parenthood, get federal funding for other services they provide, like pregnancy care, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraception provision, and fertility care. According to the new regulation, state and local government cannot pass any laws that would keep federal funds from reaching these health clinics for any reason—except if they determine that the clinic does not have the “ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner.”

While Planned Parenthood is often in the news because anti-abortion activists do not like that its clinics provide abortion services, a much greater percentage of its funding goes towards treating sexually transmitted diseases and infections, providing contraception and screening for breast and cervical cancer.

In recent months, Republican lawmakers in over a dozen states have attempted to block Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving any public funds. The new rule will ensure the Planned Parenthood and other clinics can continue to get money from the Title X program, that provides family-planning funds and preventative health care to low-income Americans.

Republican lawmakers, who passed a bill allowing them to overturn any regulations passed in the final days of the Obama administration, are likely to try to get rid of this rule. However, the Department of Health and Human Services told The New York Times that repealing the rule would require a joint resolution of disapproval by the House and Senate, with concurrence by the president—a time consuming and complicated process.

While Trump has said that Planned Parenthood does “very good work for millions of women,” he has also pledged to stop any federal funding for abortion. As the president-elect prepares to take office along with a Republican Congress, Planned Parenthood officials worry that federal funding for the organization will be cut off under the new administration, and are preparing for an uphill battle. While this measure is far from enough, Obama’s parting gift to women’s reproductive health advocates might provide some temporary cover in Republican controlled states.