President Joe Biden is moving to reverse a Trump-era policy that barred federal Title X funding to entities that perform and refer for abortions, such as Planned Parenthood.
A proposal from the administration, set to be published April 15, would restore regulations first set in the year 2000 under Bill Clinton.
Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.
Title X does not pay for abortions, but under the Clinton administration’s 2000 rule, grant recipients had to provide abortion counseling and abortion referrals to clients upon request.
In May of 2018, the Trump administration first proposed requiring a strict physical and financial line of separation between Title X programs and any program or facility that performs abortion, or supports or refers for abortion.
The change of regulations did not impact the amount of funding allocated for Title X family planning programs, but rather changed who was eligible to receive such funds.
The March 2019 implementation of the Protect Life Rule, as the previous administration’s policy was known, mandated Title X fund recipients to be both physically and financially separate from facilities that perform abortions. It also made abortion counseling optional and forbade Title X recipients from referring for abortions.
After the new rules were announced, Planned Parenthood said it was exiting the Title X program in order to continue performing abortions.
Planned Parenthood had been receiving about one-fifth of the total amount of Title X funds distributed, and withdrawing from the program meant a $60 million cut in federal funding for the organization each year. Planned Parenthood still receives roughly $500 million annually in Medicaid reimbursement.
The HHS, in its rule-change proposal, cited statistics from the Planned Parenthood-affiliated Guttmacher Institute that claimed that the 2019 rule led to nearly 182,000 “unintended” pregnancies.
A thirty-day comment period for the public on the proposed changes will open on April 15.
In March 2021, on the same day that nominee Xavier Becerra was confirmed as the next HHS Secretary, the agency said it would implement the rule-change.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said April 14 that the 2019 rule “respected both the plain statutory language of Title X and the strong majority of Americans who oppose using taxpayer dollars to pay for abortion on demand.”
“Abortion is not ‘family planning’ and Biden-Harris Democrats pursue this extreme, unpopular agenda at their political peril,” Dannenfelser concluded.
In March of this year, the Biden administration asked the Supreme Court to throw out a challenge to the 2019 rules, signaling it intends to roll back the restrictions.
The Baltimore mayor and city council, as well as a number of states and pro-abortion groups, challenged the rule in court. While the Fourth Circuit court in September ruled 8-6 against the rule, the Ninth Circuit court upheld the rule in February 2020, in a separate challenge.
In February of this year, the Supreme Court had agreed to hear the case which is currently scheduled to be argued during fall 2021.
The federal Hyde Amendment currently prohibits federal funding for almost all abortions, though Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris have expressed support for a repeal of the amendment.