Washington D.C., Dec 16, 2016 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- States cannot keep federal grants away from Planned Parenthood clinics, the Obama administration ruled on Wednesday in a move that critics say is a “parting gift to Big Abortion.”

“The Obama administration, even in its waning hours, has chosen to put Planned Parenthood’s Big Abortion agenda ahead of women’s health and the right of states to decide how best to prioritize public health funding so that patients and the most comprehensive health providers come first,” Steven H. Aden, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom stated.

The Department of Health and Human Services released final regulations “to increase access to affordable family planning and preventive services” under Title X grants Dec. 14. The new rule takes effect Jan. 18, two days before the inauguration of Donald Trump.

Title X is a federal program that promotes “family planning” through grants to various providers of health care through the states. In its new rule, the HHS says that states can’t withhold these grants to certain health providers if they provide the “family planning” services that Title X is based on: “no grant recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services.”

Thus, if states felt that community health centers — which do not provide abortions but offer other health care options like breast cancer screenings — should receive grants over Planned Parenthood affiliates — which provide abortions but not breast cancer screenings or health care that is not preventative — they could not favor the health centers if both recipients met the criteria for the Title X grants.

“In the past several years, a number of states have taken actions to restrict participation by certain types of providers as subrecipients in the Title X Program, unrelated to the provider’s ability to provide family planning services,” the HHS stated. “This has caused limitations in the geographic distribution of services and decreased access to services,” they added, noting that the final rule was meant to “protect access to family planning services.”

States such as New Hampshire and Kansas have tried to limit Planned Parenthood affiliates’ funding under the program, the HHS has claimed, but now they can only do so if they “can prove that they disperse birth control better than Planned Parenthood does.”

“Planned Parenthood isn’t superior to true, publicly-funded health care centers -- which are far more numerous — simply because it claims to focus on dispensing birth control, despite being America’s largest abortion business,” Aden said.

Back in October, ADF, along with the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List and its research arm the Charlotte Lozier Institute, wrote to the HHS asking them “to reject the proposed rule, as it contradicts the letter and spirit of Title X not to subsidize elective abortion.” Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest abortion provider. ADF continued, saying the rule blatantly favors Planned Parenthood over public health centers, trampling on the states' legitimate authority to disburse the federal grants to organizations that best align with their declared health policy.

“By defining ‘quality of care’ in a way that strongly favors providers who focus on contraceptive services, HHS asserts that ‘reproductive healthcare providers’ such as Planned Parenthood are superior to the federal government’s own system of public healthcare because they more effectively deliver contraception — a proposition both remarkable and untrue,” the comments stated.

Plus, it is “simply better healthcare policy” to leave federal health funding to centers like community health centers that provide an array of healthcare options and not just contraceptives, ADF added: “Unlike boutique ‘reproductive healthcare providers’ such as Planned Parenthood affiliates, such primary and preventive care centers provide low-income families with access to not only family planning services, but also vital preventive services, including prenatal and perinatal services, well-child services, immunizations against vaccine-preventable diseases, primary care services, diagnostic laboratory and radiological services, emergency medical services, and pharmaceutical services.”