May 22, 2019

Trump administration sets up abortion obstacles, barring family planning clinic referrals

23 February 2019, 03:58 | Silvia Roy

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A sign hangs above a Planned Parenthood clinic

The Department of Health and Human Services announced that the new rule will forbid "the use of Title X funds to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning".

The policy released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department pleased conservative evangelicals, a key part of President Trump's political base, and faith-based family planning providers could reap millions at the expense of Planned Parenthood.

"We thank President Trump for taking decisive action to disentangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood", Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said in a statement.

It's a shame that the federal Title X family planning program has been co-mingled with abortion ever since President Bill Clinton issued regulations not only removing the wall of separation President Reagan issued, but even illegally requiring groups to refer for abortion. Additionally, any organization that receives Title X funding, including Planned Parenthood, would have to stop performing abortions in order to continue receiving that money.

Federal funding for contraception largely emanates from a provision known as Title X, a law that clearly says none of its taxpayer funds "shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning".

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The new rule does not, however, prevent the "nondirective pregnancy counseling, including nondirective counseling on abortion", according to HHS. It is also a potential violation of the First Amendment, since it appears to require government infringement of a doctor's ability to speak freely with patients about legal, safe and customary health care options as a requirement for federal assistance.

Anti-abortion groups were quick to applaud the development, which would effectively defund Planned Parenthood.

"The administration's action will do irreparable harm to the public's health and damage the network of highly qualified family planning providers across the country", Clare Coleman, president of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association said in a statement. About $2 million in Title X funds are in jeopardy under the gag rule, Mills said.

The organization claims "thousands of people will be left with nowhere to turn for health care" because of the decision.

Democratic members of Congress last week objected to what they have called an "unconventional and nontransparent" review process for the rule and called on the Office of Management and Budget to send it back to HHS for more analysis.

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Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider, runs 13 percent of Title X centers and serves about 41 percent of Title X patients, according to their website. In a February 15 letter, Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Senators Patty Murray of Washington, Kamala Harris of California and Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire called out HHS for taking numerous shortcuts.

"The implications of the Trump-Pence administration's attack on Title X with a gag rule are staggering".

The Trump regulation does allow for a a limited exception to the referral ban. Clinics will have 120 days to comply with the requirement that family planning and abortion services are kept financially separated and a year to comply with the physical separation requirement.

The California Democrat argues that Title X is the "only federal grant initiative dedicated to providing family planning services to low-income and otherwise under-served individuals".

She said the new policy would prevent doctors from referring women for abortions "even if your life depended on it".

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