The Trump administration has moved to change how taxpayer funds go towards family planning organizations, especially those that provide or encourage patients to have abortions.
The proposed changes would bar organizations that receive Title X federal money from using it to “promote, refer for or support” abortions.
Read on for a look at what Title X is and what critics have to say about the Trump administration’s proposal.
What is Title X?
Title X is a federal grant program that helps family planning groups “offer a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services (including natural family planning methods, infertility services and planning for adolescents),” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
It is the only federal program that is designed solely for family planning purposes. It serves about 4 million women per year through clinics, at a cost to taxpayers of about $260 million.
What does the White House want to change?
The Trump administration plans to tweak Title X to ensure that no federal grant money is provided to an organization to “fund the abortion industry,” according to the White House.
The proposal requires “Title X projects be physically and financially separate from programs in which abortion is provided or presented as a method of family planning, including programs that refer for abortions and programs that encourage, promote or advocate abortion as a method of family planning.” It says a “Title X project may not perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning, nor take any other affirmative action to assist a patient to secure such an abortion.”
Does that make it a “gag rule”?
The White House has maintained the proposal is different from former President Ronald Reagan’s so-called “gag rule” in 1988, which prevented federal money from being allocated to an organization that even mentioned abortion. With the Trump administration’s plan, an organization can still receive money if it counsels on abortion -- just doesn’t give referrals.
The Reagan-era rule didn’t go into effect as written, although the Supreme Court did decide that it was an appropriate use of executive power. The policy was rescinded under former President Bill Clinton, and a new rule went into effect which required “nondirective” counseling to include a range of options for women.
“These changes will protect the unborn and prevent Title X taxpayer funds from being used to support abortion providers like Planned Parenthood,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement in support of the move. “Just as vital, this will ensure that Title X health providers are not forced to choose between their patients and their conscience.”
How have critics responded?
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, called the proposed changes “a radical departure from how health care has operated in the United States up until this point.”
“This is the worst attack on women’s health and rights we’ve seen from the Trump-Pence administration,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. “No woman should be denied basic information about her health care -- including safe and legal abortion.”
“The result of this rule is that people will not get the health care they need,” she continued.
The administration said Planned Parenthood could still receive Title X grants if it keeps the family planning money separate from funds used to pay for abortions. Planned Parenthood has previously said only 3 percent of its health care services are abortion services.
“This proposal does not necessarily defund Planned Parenthood, as long as they’re willing to disentangle taxpayer funds from abortion as a method of family planning,” an administration official told Fox News.
Isn’t the Supreme Court deciding something on abortion?
The Supreme Court has before it this term a religious freedom case in the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates v. Becerra. In that case, NIFLA, a nonprofit representing pro-life and religious pregnancy centers, is suing California over a law that requires pregnancy centers to inform patients about family planning options available in the state, including abortion.
NIFLA President Thomas Glessner has argued that the law requires anti-abortion centers to be “advertising for abortion.” But California Attorney Gen. Xavier Becerra defended the law as a way for patients to get “accurate information” about healthcare options.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.