Trump to ban federally funded clinics from giving abortion referrals

Trump to ban federally funded clinics from giving abortion referrals
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The Trump administration announced on Friday it plans to ban the use of federal funds for family planning clinics that refer women for abortions. 

The rule would ban clinics that receive federal money from referring women for abortions and remove the requirement that clinics counsel women on abortion as an option. 

Federal law now requires the clinics to counsel pregnant women on their options, including adoption and abortion. According to multiple sources, that counseling would no longer be required, but would be optional. 

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The rule change would open up the door for faith-based organizations and other groups opposed to abortions to participate in the program, when they would not have felt comfortable doing so before. 

The "Protect Life" rule would also ban clinics, including Planned Parenthood clinics which are a major recipient of federal dollars, from sharing spaces with abortion providers. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the proposed changes to the Title X Federal Family Planning Program in a call with anti-abortion groups early Friday morning. 

Title X funds organizations offering family planning services, like birth control and pregnancy tests, to low-income women and men.

Similar regulations were issued under former President Ronald Reagan, and later upheld by the Supreme Court, but never went into effect due to a lengthy legal battle. 

The regulations were sent Thursday to the White House's Office of Management and Budget, which must review all agency regulations. It's not clear when the review will be finished, but the process can often take months. Once approved, the regulations would be published and open for a public comment period. 

Conservative and anti-abortion groups have increased pressure on the administration in recent weeks to reform the Title X program as a way to cut away at funding for Planned Parenthood. 

This month, hundreds of congressional Republicans, and about 80 anti-abortion groups, sent letters to HHS Secretary Alex Azar demanding the changes. 

“We thank President TrumpDonald John TrumpGillibrand urges opposition to Kavanaugh: Fight for abortion rights 'is now or never' Trump claims tariffs on foreign nations will rescue US steel industry: report Bannon announces pro-Trump movie, operation team ahead of midterms: report MORE for taking action to disentangle taxpayers from the abortion business,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion group. 

"President Trump has shown decisive leadership, delivering on a key promise to pro-life voters who worked so hard to elect him. This is a major victory which will energize the grassroots as we head into the critical midterm elections.”

The Trump administration has positioned itself as a foe of legal abortion and both President Trump and Vice President Pence have spoken at the annual March For Life, an anti-abortion demonstration in Washington.

Trump will also speak Tuesday at the SBA List's "Campaign for Life" gala, an annual event that raises funds for the organization's campaign efforts. 

The changes were seen by both sides as a direct attack on Planned Parenthood, which currently serves about 40 percent of Title X patients. 

Planned Parenthood on Friday argued the changes would impact access to reproductive health care. 

“This is an attempt to take away women’s basic rights, period. Under this rule, people will not get the health care they need. They won’t get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, or even general women’s health exams," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

“Planned Parenthood will not stop fighting for our patients. We will not stand by while our basic health and rights are stripped away.”

- Updated at 11:19 a.m.