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The Trump administration released its final version of a rule that makes sweeping changes to Title X, the federal program that provides birth control and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans.
Under the new rule, released Friday by the Bureau of Population Affairs of the federal Department of Health and Human Services, any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is not eligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screening and contraception. Federal funding for abortion is already illegal in most cases.
The rule, first proposed last year, has been popular with President Trump’s socially conservative base. It should be officially published at Federal Register soon, and would come into force 60 days later.
Anti-abortion activists have long called on lawmakers to “cancel funding for Planned Parenthood.” They argue that no organization with ties to abortion should receive federal funds.
“Abortion is not part of family planning,” Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for the anti-abortion march for life, said in a recent interview with NPR. “These services should be separate and even have separate facilities.”
Doreen Denny, senior director of government relations at Concerned Women for America, said her group supports a “clear dividing line between any type of provider that has any involvement in abortion services” and federal Title X funding. .
Abortion rights supporters have criticized the settlement as a “gag rule” that will prevent doctors from talking openly with pregnant women about options, including abortion.
Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, recently told NPR that withholding abortion information from Title X patients would violate medical ethics. “As a physician, this undermines the oath I have taken to serve my patients and help them make the best decision for their own health,” Wen said. “My patients expect me to speak to them honestly, to answer their questions, to help them when needed. It is unacceptable and unethical for politicians to prevent doctors like me from speak honestly to our patients.”
Wen and other reproductive rights advocates say the new regulations would force groups like Planned Parenthood to withhold Title X funds, which could reduce the number of places low-income women and other beneficiaries can receive. reproductive health care. Wen said Planned Parenthood clinics served 41% of Title X recipients nationwide and warned that dramatic changes to the program could compromise access to care for the 4 million low-income people served by the program. .
In addition to blocking grants to organizations that offer abortions or referrals, some religious groups hope the new regulations will allow organizations such as Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which advise women against abortions, to receive the funds.
“There are a number of options that can take the banner,” McClusky said, with the March for Life. “And Planned Parenthood isn’t the only game in town.”
Some of these organizations emphasize abstinence outside of marriage or promote fertility awareness methods, which depend on understanding a woman’s cycle and restricting sexual activity when she is pregnant. fertile.
Mario Dickerson, executive director of the Catholic Medical Association, said he would like to see the program move in that direction.
“We could provide abstinence programs; we could provide natural family planning…but we wouldn’t have to provide these other services,” Dickerson said.
That idea worries Julie Rabinovitz, president of Essential Access Health, which administers Title X grants in California. She said the Trump administration is making “some of the most extreme policy changes” in the history of the Title X program. She said the diversion of federal funds to groups that don’t provide a full range of contraceptive options could reduce the number of facilities where low-income women can be prescribed birth control pills or IUDs.
“Birth control is an urgent service, and it’s an essential health care service,” Rabinovitz said. “And we want to make sure women can get the kind of birth control they need and want in a timely manner.”
Reproductive rights groups are expected to fight the regulations in court.