The U.S. bishops' pro-life committee chairman Feb. 27 praised the Trump administration for finalizing its "Protect Life Rule" to prevent funds appropriated under the Title X Family Planning Program from being used in services that include abortion as a method of family planning or that make abortion referrals.
By its action, the administration has reaffirmed that abortion "is not family planning," said Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann of Kansas City, Kansas. "Abortion ends the lives of families' most vulnerable members, as well as damaging the spiritual, mental and physical health of mothers."
The archbishop, who chairs the Committee on Pro-Life Activities of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, made the comments in a statement released in Washington.
"Although the USCCB continues to have strong objections to government promotion and funding of contraceptives, we have long supported enforcement of the abortion funding restrictions in Title X, and we are pleased to see that the administration has taken seriously its obligation to enforce those restrictions," he added.
The Office of Population Affairs, which is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and oversees Title X, published the draft final rule the afternoon of Feb. 22. It is slated to go into effect 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register.
The "Protect Life Rule" bars Title X grant money from any clinic that performs abortion, which will especially impact Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. According to the organization's website, Planned Parenthood affiliates receive roughly $290 million in Title X funds and serve about 41 percent of those who benefit from Title X funding.
The new rule requires "clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning."
"This separation," it says, "will ensure adherence to statutory restrictions, and provide needed clarity for the public and for Title X clinics about permissible and impermissible activities for Title X projects."
Another provision that drew praise from Archbishop Naumann is its prohibition on referrals for abortion as a method of family planning. The "Protect Life Rule" does not bar "nondirective counseling on abortion," but it eliminates a "requirement that Title X providers offer abortion counseling and referral."