HHS Unveils New Abortion Restrictions on Title X Program

Kerry Dooley Young

May 22, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration today issued a proposed rule for the Title X family planning program, which focuses on serving Americans living in or near poverty.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in a press release that the planned changes are meant to focus "in particular" on the prohibition on funding programs where abortion is a method of family planning. HHS also said it is seeking "clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning."

The department said it intends to eliminate a current requirement regarding abortion counseling and referral for the benefit of healthcare professionals who object to it. The update states that it would protect "Title X health providers so that they are not required to choose between the health of their patients and their own consciences, by eliminating the current requirement that they provide abortion counseling and referral."

HHS said the proposal also "would not bar non-directive counseling on abortion, but would prohibit referral for abortion as a method of family planning." Under current law, funds for Title X — a program established in 1970 to provide family planning and preventive healthcare to low-income Americans — cannot be used to provide abortion or promote abortion as a method of family planning. In practice, many clinics that receive the funds — such as Planned Parenthood facilities — provide abortion services. But those services are funded by private money.

HHS "Gag" Rule on Abortion Draws Quick Protest

Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone Jr (D-NJ) wasted no time in issuing a statement condemning the new ruling.

"I am disgusted that the Trump Administration is once again prioritizing extremist ideology over women's health. This proposed rule is a blatant attack on reproductive health care providers and only serves to seriously impair women's access to and information about the full range of reproductive health care services," Pallone said.

"Under this proposal, low-income women will lose access to contraceptive services and related preventive health care, and providers will be forced to choose between giving their patients complete medical information or complying with a restriction on speech," he added. "This rule stigmatizes patients who seek information about their pregnancy options and is a radical departure from how health care should be provided in this country," he said.

Alicia Ault contributed to this story.

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