The Trump administration plans to revive a Reagan-era effort to ban clinics that provide abortion services, including referring women to outside agencies, from receiving federal funds, NPR News is reporting.
Federal law already prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortions directly. However, for decades, conservatives have been trying to tighten up the law to prevent federal money from going to any clinic or service that provides abortion services at all – even if that service is referring abortion-seekers to outside providers.
Without naming names, the proposed rule changes appear to be targeting Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the country. Like other clinics, Planned Parenthood receives federal funds through Title X, the program that distributes roughly $260 million annually to be spent on reproductive health services such as STD screenings and condoms. Planned Parenthood insists that none of the federal money it receives pays for abortions; but if the new rules are approved, the provider will receive no federal money at all. That is unless it stops providing abortions and/or stops referring abortion-seeking women to other providers.
In an email to the Weekly Standard, a Trump official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the rule is intended to put a figurative distance between federal money and abortion.
“The proposal would require a bright line of physical as well as financial separation between Title X programs and any program (or facility) where abortion is performed, supported, or referred for as a method of family planning.”
Cecile Richards, former president of Planned Parenthood, told NPR’s Morning Edition that the proposed rule moves beyond limiting abortion to low-income women and essentially imposes a “gag rule” on those who would provide essential health care to such women.
“I think, really, the chilling thing about what they’re proposing now is it removes the guarantee that women in particular are getting full and accurate information about their health care from their doctor. This is absolutely extraordinary that we would now be gagging doctors and health care providers from giving women their legal information and even referring them for potentially life-saving health care.”
Anti-abortion advocates, however, welcome the move.
In a statement, Kristan Hawkins, a spokesperson for high school and college anti-abortion group Students for Life of America, said that the Trump administration is doing the right thing.
“These changes are long overdue as abortion is not healthcare or birth control and many women want natural healthcare choices rather than hormone-induced changes.”
If the proposal is approved into law, it will almost certainly face multiple court challenges.