The Biden administration announced late last week its intent to overturn a Trump-era rule that prevents certain federal funds from going to groups such as Planned Parenthood that promote or perform abortions.
At issue are funds for Title X, a federal family-planning program for low-income patients. The Trump administration’s rule prevents Title X money from going to family-planning clinics that “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” It also requires recipients to financially and physically separate their abortion services from their non-abortion services.
On Thursday, the Department of Health & Human Services announced plans to “propose revised regulations substantively similar to those issued in 2000” under the Clinton administration. Those rules, HHS said, “operated successfully for years, with a few definitional updates that account for minor operational changes over the past 20 years.”
HHS said its action was sparked by a President Biden memo directing it to review the Trump-era rule.
“The memorandum specifically directed HHS to ensure that undue restrictions are not put on the use of federal funds or on women’s access to medical information,” HHS said.
The department said it plans on having its new rule published in the Federal Register no later than April 15, and its final rule in place by early fall and effective in time for “the Fiscal Year 2022 funding announcement, which is expected to be issued in December 2021.”
Opponents called it the “gag rule,” while supporters dubbed it the “protect life rule.”
Planned Parenthood, which receives an estimated $60 million annually from Title X, chose to drop out of the program. The Trump administration awarded those relinquished funds to other family-planning clinics, organizations and states.
Planned Parenthood applauded the Biden administration for taking the first step in overturning the rule and “restoring access to essential sexual and reproductive health care.”
“This swift action from the administration is much needed,” Planned Parenthood said.
The federal funding of abortion is technically illegal under federal law, but pro-life groups say the Trump-era rule is needed to stop indirect funding of abortion.
“The fact that Planned Parenthood’s facilities and physicians providing both family planning (birth control) and abortion services are housed in the same buildings,” Live Action said in 2019, “means that taxpayer funds received by Planned Parenthood go to support the business of Planned Parenthood, which includes more than 320,000 abortions annually. This is a concept known as fungibility.
“For abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood to claim that no ‘commingling’ of funds or services can be proven is ridiculous, for this reason. And, as a director for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast admitted in an undercover Center for Medical Progress video, shuffling dollars and numbers around to make everything look legitimate and separate on paper is ‘all just a matter of line items.’”
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Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.