Controversial executive orders have been a hallmark of Donald Trump’s young presidency, but it’s worth noting that there is one that he has so far refrained from issuing. During the presidential campaign, Trump said he would “defund” — that is, stop providing federal funding to — Planned Parenthood. He can advance that goal by executive order if he wants.
The federal government does not generally pay for abortions. But the government is the largest source of funds for Planned Parenthood, which performs more abortions than any other organization in the U.S.
Abortion opponents have sought legislation. But the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush believed that existing legislation allowed the executive branch to cut off a significant portion of that funding, and their arguments held up in court.
The Clinton administration rescinded the regulations, and the George W. Bush administration did not reinstate them. During the Obama administration, opponents of Planned Parenthood funding sought to cut it off. Executive action gradually fell off the agenda.
During the presidential primaries,Jeb Bush proposed reinstating the old regulations. If President Trump went that route, he would have one more controversy on his hands, and he may feel that he has enough already.
But those opponents may ask him: If you oppose federal funding for Planned Parenthood and you have the power to do something about it, why don’t you?