As expected, U.S. President Barack Obama vetoed Friday a reconciliation bill passed by Congress that would have repealed key parts of the Affordable Care Act, the president's signature healthcare law, and gutted federal funding to the health provider Planned Parenthood. "This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America," he said in the text of his veto message, released by the White House.

The bill, which passed the Senate in December and the House in January, was dubbed the Restoring Americans' Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act. It would have repealed several taxes vital to the structure of the law, including the employer mandate and the individual mandate. The employer mandate requires companies of a minimum size to offer their employees health insurance, while the individual mandate imposes a fine, paid as a tax, on those who do not buy qualified health insurance plans.

The bill also sought to block funding to Planned Parenthood, a national healthcare provider for both women and men that faces continuous controversy for providing abortions, even though the procedure constitutes just 3 percent of its services.

In a reference to this controversy, Obama noted in his veto message that "longstanding federal policy already prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered." He added that cutting funding to Planned Parenthood would limit healthcare access for men and women alike and "would disproportionately impact low-income individuals." 

More than 50 times, Republicans in Congress have tried to repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, which Obama highlighted in his veto message as having helped 17.6 million Americans gain health insurance and potentially saved some 87,000 lives. Yet despite the party's opposition to the healthcare legislation, the GOP lacks a clear alternative for the law, even as the country heads into an election year and presidential candidates swear to repeal and replace the law.