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House Democrats demand Trump administration justify new abortion 'gag' rule

House Democrats demand Trump administration justify new abortion 'gag' rule

House Democrats want the Trump administration to explain recent changes that reshape the federal government’s family-planning grant program.

In a letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders said the administration’s new rule undermines congressional intent for the program by reducing — instead of increasing — access to health care.

“We have serious concerns regarding the final rule’s compliance with the Title X statute, the public health implications of this action, and the administration’s rationale for these changes,” the Democrats wrote to HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

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Under the rule, released late last week, family planning clinics that provide abortions or refer patients for abortions will not be eligible for federal funds under the Title X program.

The rule requires women's health clinics to be "physically and financially" separate from abortion providers to be eligible for Title X grants, which fund organizations providing reproductive health services to low-income women.  

The Democrats want HHS to explain the evidence that justifies the need for physical and financial separation. Conservative groups celebrated that the rule effectively cuts tens of millions of dollars in funding for Planned Parenthood, which offers both family planning as well as abortion.

Clinics will also not be allowed to refer women to other facilities for abortions, or promote or support abortion as a method of family planning.

“The success of Title X is largely due to the network of qualified family planning providers that have implemented the program’s goals since its creation. It is disturbing that the administration has chosen to undermine the ongoing success of this program by finalizing this rule,” the Democrats wrote.