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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The letter was signed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone Jr.Frank Joseph PallonePharma execs say FDA will not lower standards for coronavirus vaccine Dem chairmen urge CMS to prevent nursing homes from seizing stimulus payments Federal watchdog finds cybersecurity vulnerabilities in FCC systems MORE (D-N.J.), Health subcommittee Chairwoman Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooDemocratic chairman says White House blocked FDA commissioner from testifying Hillicon Valley: Zuckerberg acknowledges failure to take down Kenosha military group despite warnings | Election officials push back against concerns over mail-in voting, drop boxes Democrat asks intel agencies if they're surveilling members of Congress MORE (D-Calif), and Oversight and Investigations subcommittee Chairwoman Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGette87 lawmakers ask EPA to reverse course after rescinding methane regulations Overnight Health Care: Supreme Court to hear ObamaCare arguments 1 week after election | NYC positive COVID-19 tests hit record low With Biden, advocates sense momentum for lifting abortion funding ban MORE (D-Colo.).

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.