UPDATE: Trump administration upholds Title X funding cuts for abortion providers.
Update (August 19): After a court of appeals ruled in favor a Trump administration policy barring federal funding for clinics that offer abortion referrals, Planned Parenthood announced on Monday it will withdraw from a government program that offers low-income women reproductive healthcare.
Title X currently provides 1.5 million women with contraception, pregnancy tests, and STD screenings. It does not fund abortions.
“The news that [Planned Parenthood is] refusing to accept taxpayer funds to target vulnerable women is a good thing for women’s health,” said Catherine Glenn Foster, president and CEO of Americans United for Life in a statement. “…Women who need true healthcare will have their needs met by authentic and eager healthcare providers across America.”
While policy previously restricted the federal government from covering abortion costs, the new rules go even further in not allowing the funds to go to any clinic that also makes abortion referrals.
Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice groups have spent months in a legal battle against the tighter rules. In a tweet, Planned Parenthood wrote that it serves 40 percent of patients in the Title X program.
Since Trump’s inauguration, the Department of Health and Human Services has once again enabled states to withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and rescinded an Obama administration memo warning states against blocking Medicaid funding for providers that offered abortion.
Pro-life evangelicals are celebrating another move by the Trump administration to cut federal funding for abortion.
According to reports, the White House is expected to announce new regulations prohibiting Planned Parenthood and other entities that make abortion referrals from receiving grant money through Title X, the government’s quarter-billion-dollar family planning program.
Already, Title X funds cannot be used for abortion itself. But Planned Parenthood still receives more than $50 million every year to cover birth control and other services for low-income and uninsured patients. Under the new policy, clinics could not accept the money at all if they perform or recommend abortions.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called the proposal “a responsible and commendable step toward our goal of totally separating taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry.”
The Title X program—which now supports about 4 million patients and 4,000 providers—dates back to 1970. Previously, President Ronald Reagan had put a similar rule in place to restrict the funds from being used to back abortion. The Trump administration’s restriction, drafted by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), is currently being reviewed by the White House budget office, NPR reported.
“President Trump has shown decisive leadership, delivering on a key promise to pro-life voters who worked so hard to elect him,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which will host the president at its annual gala in Washington next week.
Trump has moved to restrict federal government funding for abortion since taking office by pushing back the policies put in place by his predecessor—following up on campaign promises to pro-lifers and answering many Christians’ prayers.
A majority of Americans—60 percent—oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to fund abortion, according to a Marist Poll conducted in January.
“I’m grateful that my tax dollars will not fund Planned Parenthood, thanks to the Trump administration, to Vice President Mike Pence, to Kellyanne Conway, and to the many pro-lifers in the Department of Health and Human Services who have worked tirelessly to fulfill their campaign promise, a promise made to the pro-life movement for the past decade,” said Abby Johnson, president of And Then There Were None, a ministry for former abortion clinic staff.
In January, the Trump administration rescinded an Obama administration memo warning states against blocking Medicaid funding for abortion providers. Last year, it reversed an earlier policy barring states from withholding Title X funds for abortion clinics. Trump also reinstated a ban on federal funding for organizations performing abortions abroad.
After the administration freed states to set their own regulations for clinic funding, more than a dozen have moved to defund Planned Parenthood either through diverting federal Medicaid or Title X funding or cutting off state funding to abortion providers. Nebraska and Tennessee were among the most recent states to do so, approving new restrictions just last month.
Some of these state-level efforts have been challenged in court; for example, a federal appeals court ruled last month against Ohio’s policy blocking federal funding from Planned Parenthood was unconstitutional. Last year, a court ruling favored Arkansas’s decision to end Medicaid funding for its two Planned Parenthood affiliates. The governor of South Carolina also directed its state agencies to cut off funding for abortion clinics.
“We thank President Trump for the numerous actions his administration has taken to restore pro-life policies,” said National Right to Life President Carol Tobias. “We are encouraged to see the announcement of Title X regulations that are back in line with previous policy that prevents federal dollars from being used to directly or indirectly promote abortion domestically.”
Christianity Today previously reported how the Trump administration has turned HHS from a pro-life antagonist to an advocate, including adopting new protections for health care workers who refuse to perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood and other pro-choice advocates are expected to counter the latest pro-life policy shift in court, as they’ve done for previous changes, according to Politico. Opponents to the rule say it amounts to a “gag order,” keeping doctors from referring patients to abortion providers even though abortion remains a legal, FDA-approved option.