Abortion foes have been extraordinarily successful in the states in recent years at limiting access to abortion.
At the federal level, though, not so much. Conservative Republicans have tried and failed for years to limit federal funds to women’s health-care clinics such as Planned Parenthood that also perform abortions.
But those against abortion are about to get their first big national win in the Trump era. The Trump administration is proposing a new rule that would cut off a federal family planning services grant to any clinic that offers abortion services or that refers clients to abortion providers.
President Trump, in essence, is doing what a Republican-controlled Congress could not: taking direct aim at Planned Parenthood.
Taxpayer money already can’t be used for abortions. But this new rule would cut off the nation’s only federal family planning grant, Title X, to any clinic that also provides privately funded abortions on the same site.
It’s estimated that that would cut off funding to several hundred Planned Parenthood clinics across the country, as well as other abortion providers. And this new rule would prohibit medical providers from referring a woman to an abortion clinic.
Abortion rights advocates say this makes it much more difficult for women to trust that they are getting unbiased information from their providers about abortion, since providers who accept this grant don’t have to advise about abortion as an option, and they can’t offer help on where to get one.
“It is ideologically motivated interference between a provider and a patient,” said Kinsey Hasstedt of the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights. “It’s absolutely unacceptable.”
Abortion opponents, by contrast, are thrilled.
Abortion foes are “now seeing their views and policy goals reflected in the White House, and that’s really exciting,” said Mallory Quigley of the antiabortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, later adding that “Donald Trump is the most pro-life president in the nation’s history.”
The timing couldn’t be better for Trump. Polls show that evangelical women, a group that tends to oppose abortion, are taking a slight step back from the president as he faces accusations of affairs with a porn star and ex-Playboy playmate.
Support for Trump among white evangelical women has actually dropped more over the past year than support for Trump among all women. The Fix’s Eugene Scott writes:
According to the Pew Research Center, support for Trump among white evangelical women in polls has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. Among all women, there has been an eight-point drop.
Susan B. Anthony List and its super PAC spent $18 million in the last election against Hillary Clinton and for antiabortion candidates. And they indicated that they will make sure those same voters hear how Trump just gave them a big win on abortion, months before an election that will decide which party controls Congress.
“This is a major victory which will energize the grassroots as we head into the critical midterm elections,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said in a statement.
Trump’s track record on everything from guns to immigration has wavered over the past year, but as The Post’s Ariana Eunjung Cha and Juliet Eilperin point out, his track record on abortion has not.
He’s appointed several judges with a history of ruling against abortion to key benches, including the Supreme Court. He’s barred federal funds going to overseas groups that refer women to abortion providers. He addressed the annual March for Life in Washington. And he rolled back an Obama-era regulation that prevented states from withholding Title X funding from clinics that perform abortions.
Abortion foes are fighting and winning a parallel battle at the state level. A number of majority-Republican states have severely limited the window in which a woman can get an abortion. The most extreme example is Iowa, which just passed a bill banning abortion from the moment a fetal heartbeat can be detected, at about six weeks, or before many women find out they are pregnant.
The momentum at the state legislative level was building before Trump became president, since Republicans control a majority of state governments. But abortion opponents say they’re inspired by having such a supportive president in the White House.
“Trump has given hope to the pro-life movement,” Ron Hood, a Republican state representative who introduced a total abortion ban in Ohio, told The Post’s Mary Jordan.
Trump has a number of policy positions and personal problems that could turn off his base months before he really needs them to keep his party in control of Congress. But so far, abortion isn’t one of them.