General Assembly votes to step in if Congress yanks funding for Planned Parenthood

The General Assembly gave final passage Tuesday to a bill designed to protect Planned Parenthood if Congress votes to cut off federal funding.

The state Senate passed the bill 32-15 Tuesday. It will quickly be sent to Gov. Larry Hogan, who will be forced to decide whether to veto it, while leaving lawmakers sufficient time to override the veto before the General Assembly session ends April 10.

Planned Parenthood has long been a target of conservatives because it is the largest provider of abortions in the country. While it doesn't use federal dollars to perform abortions, some Republicans have sought to cut off its access to money from Medicaid and other programs anyway.

The Maryland General Assembly is the the first state legislature to pass a bill that would shield the organization against action by Republicans in Congress, Planned Parenthood said. The bill would provide about $2.7 million should the group lose access to federal money.

The legislation gave Democrats a chance to get a vote on the record opposing a policy supported by the Trump administration. It also let them push the Republican governor into taking a position on a partisan issue as he is seeking to lay the groundwork among moderate voters for his reelection campaign.

A spokeswoman for the governor declined to say whether Hogan would sign the measure, saying instead that it will be part of a review process along with hundreds of other bills. The measure passed both the House and the Senate with margins large enough that were they to hold, a veto by Hogan could be overridden.

Sen. Richard Madaleno, who sponsored the Senate version of the bill, said is critical to guarantee that Planned Parenthood will be able to keep providing medical care should it lose access to federal funds.

"We're not going to let Donald Trump's agenda disrupt the progress that we've made in Maryland and what we've done to make sure that women have access to quality care from providers that they trust," the Montgomery County Democrat said.

Karen J. Nelson, Planned Parenthood's Maryland president, thanked the General Assembly for its work on the bill.

"We will never stop fighting for our patients and we will continue to work with our state and national partners to keep Planned Parenthood's doors open for our patients," she said in a statement.

Some conservative lawmakers in Washington have proposed making their support for an essential spending measure that has to pass next month contingent on a provision stripping Planned Parenthood of funding. White House press secretary Sean Spicer said Monday the White House is looking for opportunities to shut down the flow of federal money to the organization.

Lawmakers in Nevada and Oregon are also considering legislation that backers say would help protect women's access to reproductive health services if Planned Parenthood lost federal funding and other federal policy changes.

Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox and the Associated Press contributed to this article.

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