HHS unveils policy blocking Title X funds to abortion providers, referrers

HHS unveils policy blocking Title X funds to abortion providers, referrers

Under the new rule, clinics that receive Title X funding must now create a physical separation - such as access corridors, doorways, and rooms - between abortion services and any other family planning services provided at the clinic.

Praised by religious conservatives, the policy is bound to be challenged in court by pro-choice advocates. This represents a big victory for abortion rights opponents who've been lobbying the Trump administration for these changes.

Planned Parenthood has said the administration appears to be targeting them, and calls the policy a 'gag rule'.

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, calls it a gag rule. "It's unprecedented that politicians could specifically tell doctors and nurses what we can and can't say to our patients", she said.

Maine Gov. Janet Mills criticized the change. "We won't ever withhold medical information from our patients, and we won't stop ever fighting for everyone's ability to access the fundamental right to health care". Two-thirds of Americans want Roe revisited to allow for state regulation of abortion or to ban it altogether.

The updated rule does not prohibit clinics from counseling on abortion, but it eliminates the requirement that federally funded providers offer abortion counseling and referral.

"It is absolutely appropriate that the new Title X regulations take into account the difference between abortion and healthcare", March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement on Friday. They could try to redirect Title X funds to Planned Parenthood and other abortion clinics through an annual appropriations bill, but the GOP-controlled Senate stands ready to block such action, not to mention that President Trump has already vowed to veto such a bill.

The administration implemented a similar rule - nicknamed the "Mexico City gag rule" - for grantees of US foreign aid that prevents organizations that get those funds from referring, providing or discussing abortion with patients.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway dismissed that argument. "They've been saying for years they don't co-mingle their funds, so this should be easy for them", she told reporters at the White House. Health and Human Services officials have said the change is necessary to ensure transparency and the legal and ethical use of taxpayer funds.

According to the Washington Post, Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter calling out the Department of Health and Human Services for its "unconventional and nontransparent" review process for the rule last week. About 40 percent of those clinics are operated by Planned Parenthood, which receives close to $60 million through the family funding program each year.

"This puts health care at risk for 4 million patients" the statement said, "and keeps women from having information about their health options".

"The Protect Life Rule does not cut family planning funding by a single dime, and instead directs tax dollars to entities that provide health care to women but do not perform abortions", said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement. Her organization is a political advocacy group that backs anti-abortion candidates. Lesser amounts are earmarked for partner groups, such as Planned Parenthood.

"We don't accept any restrictive state or federal funding, and this is the reason", says Andrea Irwin, executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Center, which provides women's health care in Bangor.

The rule came about a month after a poll found that most Americans support restrictions on abortions.

Ignoring Congress, which has passed no legislation on this subject, Trump administration rules will now mandate that no organization that even mentions abortion services can receive federal funds. The Clinton administration undid the rule, however, and it has never since been fully restored.

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