Pro-life advocates lauded a federal government proposal that aims to remove Title X funding from programs and facilities that promote and perform abortions.
“For too long, Title X has been used to subsidize the abortion industry. We need to draw a bright line between what happens before a pregnancy begins and what happens after a child has been created,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, chair of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life committee.
In a May 18 statement, Dolan called the proposal “greatly needed and deeply appreciated.”
“Abortion always takes the life of a child and often harms the mother, her surviving children, and other family and friends as well. Most Americans recognize that abortion is distinct from family planning and has no place in a taxpayer-funded family planning program,” he said.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, hailed the move as “a major victory” for the pro-life movement that helps “disentangle taxpayers from the abortion business.”
“The Protect Life Rule doesn’t cut a single dime from family planning,” she said. “It instead directs tax dollars to Title X centers that do not promote or perform abortions, such as the growing number of community and rural health centers that far outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities.”
The Health and Human Services Department on Friday filed a proposal with the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that abortion is not treated as a method of family planning under Title X.
While federal law currently prohibits money received through the Title X Family Planning Grant Program from being used for abortion, pro-life advocates have long voiced concern that this regulation is not always enforced.
The proposal will require a “bright line” of physical and financial separation between Title X programs and any program or facility that performs abortion, or supports or refers for abortion as a family planning method.
It will not decrease the amount of Title X funding, which annually provides $260 million for “family planning” purposes, including contraception, pregnancy testing, and infertility treatments.
Abby Johnson, a pro-life advocate who previously worked as a Planned Parenthood director, said in a statement that there was “never any separation of funds,” and that all money the clinic received, regardless of source, went into one account.
“It was all about the bottom line,” she said.
Title X funds make up a small percentage of Planned Parenthood’s funding, money that Johnson believes the organization will recoup through its network of high-profile donors and supporters.
"They should have no problem making up those taxpayer dollars though with the support of celebrities, the fashion and tech industries, and Hollywood icons,” said Johnson. “But I’m grateful that my tax dollars will not fund Planned Parenthood.”
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement that the proposal “is an attempt to take away women’s basic rights.”
“Under this rule, people will not get the health care they need. They won’t get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, or even general women’s health exams.”
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, called the proposal a “dangerous rule” that “should send shivers down the spine of everyone who ever wanted to know the facts and the truth about their own healthcare.”
However, Congressman Chris Smith (R-N.J.), stressed that Planned Parenthood would not explicitly be defunded under the new proposal. Instead, it would be required to separate abortion from its services in order to continue receiving Title X funds.
“The Protect Life Rule is about choice. Planned Parenthood can stop performing abortions or stop receiving family planning funding,” Smith said. “For too long the abortion giant has utilized Title X funding—up to $60 million annually—to further their core mission of destroying unborn human life. The 1970 program is in dire need of reform, and today’s actions lead the way in redirecting the same amount of taxpayer dollars from the abortion industry to actual health care providers.”
Rep. Smith, the co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, was one of more than 150 members of Congress who sent a letter to the Health and Human Services Department in April, asking that Title X dollars be prohibited from going to organizations that perform abortions.
Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri), another signatory of the letter, also applauded the proposal.
“The abortion industry should not be the recipient of taxpayer funded family planning programs,” she said. “This proposed rule will distinguish between health care facilities that provide family planning services and clinics whose business models promote, facilitate, and perform the inhumane act of abortion.”
While the new proposal could lead to Planned Parenthood losing about $60 million annually from Title X funding, the organization is still eligible to receive some $400 million from Medicaid reimbursements annually. Federal Medicaid funds are prohibited from going toward elective abortions, although pro-life advocates have also questioned how thoroughly that regulation is enforced.
The new HHS rule is based off a regulation issued by President Ronald Reagan, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, but was later reversed by President Bill Clinton. The new regulation differs from that of the Reagan era in that it will not ban Title X recipients from counseling clients about abortion.
Last year, Trump signed a repeal of an Obama-era regulation which had prohibited states from denying federal funds to health clinics solely on the grounds that they provided abortions.