The Biden administration on Wednesday took the first steps to roll back Trump-era restrictions on the Title X-funded family planning program, which effectively barred clinics that referred patients for abortions from receiving federal funding.
A proposed rule from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released Wednesday would end up revoking restrictions put in place by the Trump administration, which critics have called a domestic “gag” rule.
However, the proposal did not immediately revoke the previous policy, and Trump’s rules will remain in place until the current administration formally ends them with a final rule, which could take months.
A 30-day public comment period begins April 15, when the proposal is officially released.
The proposed rule would largely return the Title X program to the way it was run from 2000 until the Trump administration changed the rules in 2019.
“Advancing equity for all, including people of color and others historically underserved, marginalized, and affected by persistent poverty and inequality, is a priority for the OPA. [the HHS Office of Population Affairs] and the Title X program,” HHS wrote in the proposal.
“By focusing on promoting equity in the Title X program, we can create opportunities for the betterment of communities that have been historically underserved, which benefits everyone,” the agency wrote.
Title X funds thousands of providers across the country providing birth control, cancer screening, and other services to millions of low-income women and men.
The lawyers support Title X disproportionately serves Black, Latino, and Indigenous patients, as well as low-income patients and those who live in rural areas.
The Trump administration issued rules in 2019 prohibiting all providers who receive Title X funds from referring people for abortions while making referrals to prenatal services mandatory for all pregnant patients.
After the rules took effect, about a quarter of the roughly 4,000 providers left the program, arguing that they could not in good conscience agree not to provide patients with abortion information. As a result, several states were left without Title X providers.
California, the nation’s largest Title X project before the 2019 rules, saw 36% of its Title X service sites withdraw from the program, leaving more than 700,000 patients without access to Title X-funded care, a said the HHS.
Overall, the rules resulted in about 844,000 fewer people receiving Title X care in 2019.
“Due to the dramatic decline in Title X services provided, the 2019 final rule undermined the mission of the Title X program by helping fewer people plan and space births, providing fewer preventive health services and by offering fewer screenings” for sexually transmitted people. infections, HHS said in the proposal.
Planned Parenthood left the program rather than comply with Trump administration rules. Prior to his exodus, Planned Parenthood served approximately 40% of Title X patients.
While federal Planned Parenthood funds cannot be used to pay for abortions, conservatives have long tried to “defund” Planned Parenthood and have seen the Title X program as the best way to do it. They argued that any money paid to abortion providers would indirectly support the procedure.
The program provides $286 million in grants to family planning clinics for a range of services, including infertility treatments, contraceptive education and counseling, breast and cervical cancer screening uterus, as well as sexually transmitted infections and HIV testing.
“Given the program’s prior success, the significant negative public health consequences of maintaining the 2019 rules, the substantial compliance costs to beneficiaries, and the lack of tangible benefits, the Department is proposing to revoke the Title X regulations. of 2019,” HHS wrote.