Religious groups that refuse abortion counseling no longer can get grants to help human trafficking victims unless they ensure the counseling is provided by a third party, under new guidelines by the Department of Health and Human Services.

In guidance quietly posted online in June, the agency said groups competing for grants must offer "the full range of legally permissible gynecological and obstetric care," which includes abortion counseling and referrals. If groups don't offer the services, they must propose an alternative approach to remain competitive for a grant.

That has at least one anti-abortion advocate contending the new policy may violate the federal Weldon Amendment, a law saying federal money can't be awarded if it's being used to discriminate against healthcare entities that won't provide or refer women for abortions.

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, which stages a big anti-abortion march in Washington every January, called the policy change legally questionable.


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