Trump admin moves to ban federally funded clinics from giving abortion referrals

Trump admin moves to ban federally funded clinics from giving abortion referrals
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Family planning clinics that refer patients for abortions or share locations or finances with abortion providers will be ineligible for funding through a decades-old federal family planning program, the Trump administration announced Tuesday. 

The Department of Health and Human Services unveiled proposed regulations that would reshape Title X — the federal government's only program solely dedicated to family planning services for low-income women and men. 

 

President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden, Sanders lead field in Iowa poll The Memo: Cohen fans flames around Trump Memo Comey used to brief Trump on dossier released: report MORE is expected to tout the proposed restrictions Tuesday evening during his speech at an annual fundraising gala for the Susan B. Anthony List, a national anti-abortion group based in Washington. Administrative officials also briefed anti-abortion groups on the proposed regulations late last week.

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The long-expected restrictions on the Title X grant program were advocated for years by anti-abortion groups and other conservatives, who view the changes as a way to cut federal dollars going to Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood receives millions of dollars in funds each year from the $286 million program. The organization indicated last week it would no longer seek funding under the program if the restrictions were put into place.

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said the new rule took a "scorched earth" approach to banning abortion that would limit access to other critical healthcare services.

“With this rule, this administration is trying to instruct doctors about what they can or cannot say to their patients. That should alarm anyone who ever wanted to know the facts about their own healthcare or feel the doctor-patient relationship is sacred and should be protected," she said. 
 
“The anti-choice movement knows that knowledge is power, which is why they love this rule and its attack on a woman’s right to understand her full range of options when it comes to an unintended pregnancy. Voters in this country will certainly remember this callous action in November and for a long time to come.” 

Title X funds organizations offering family planning services, such as birth control and pregnancy tests, to low-income women and men, but has long been criticized by conservatives for its relationship with Planned Parenthood and its treatment of abortion. 

While the use of federal funds for abortions is prohibited under Title X and other programs, anti-abortion groups have long argued that money is fungible and can still indirectly support the procedure if it goes to groups like Planned Parenthood.

Seeking to curb the flow of federal dollars to abortion clinics, former President Ronald Reagan issued similar restrictions on the Title X program in the 1980s. While the regulations were later upheld by the Supreme Court, due to the lengthy legal battle the regulations never went into effect.

The regulations announced by Trump on Tuesday are essentially a resurgence of those restrictions, with minor changes.

While both regulations prevented family planning clinics from referring patients for abortions and required them to have physical and financial separation from abortion clinics, the Reagan-era regulations also prevented the family planning clinics from even discussing abortion with their patients. That language has been left out of the restrictions unveiled by the Trump administration.

Still, advocates point to other measures under the Trump proposal — including one that drops a requirement that Title X clinics tell patients that abortion is an option — as a huge win for anti-abortion groups.

Under the current program, clinics must counsel patients on their options after receiving a positive pregnancy test, which includes abortion, adoption or keeping the baby. 

Dropping the requirement that clinics list abortion as an option could encourage faith-based organizations to participate in the program. Such groups have previously avoided participating in the program out of fear that they would be seen as encouraging or promoting abortions.

HHS said the proposed changes ensure "Title X health providers ... are not required to choose between the health of their patients and their own consciences."

The restrictions are just the latest anti-abortion issue tackled by Trump, whom advocates often describe as the most "pro-life president in history."

In his year and a half in office, Trump has rescinded Obama-era guidance that sought to protect Planned Parenthood from defunding efforts and reinstated a policy that bans the use of federal funds for foreign nongovernmental organizations that provide or promote abortions.

However, Trump's presidency hasn't been without setbacks for anti-abortion groups, mostly due to the makeup of the Senate.

A ban on 20-week abortions and Planned Parenthood defunding have both passed the House, but failed to pass the Senate, where Republicans have a slim majority.