President Joe Biden’s Health and Human Services Department reversed a Trump administration ban on allowing abortion-referring clinics like Planned Parenthood to access funds through Title X, restoring abortion providers’ access to millions in federal grants.
HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the change on Tuesday, noting that the prohibition is set to lift on November 8th.
“Today more than ever, we are making clear that access to quality family planning care includes accurate information and referrals — based on a patient’s needs and direction,” Becerra said in a statement.
Title X is a federal grant program “dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services,” according to the HHS website.
“The [Trump] rule allowed clinics that received federal funds to offer lists of primary care providers, including those that provide prenatal care, but they could not identify which performed abortions. It also required ‘physical and financial separation’ between family planning and abortion services at places that offered both,” the New York Times said, noting that the rule was aimed at providers for whom the funds could be fungible — that is, go to offset other costs, allowing abortion providers to spend more of their budget on abortion services, even as they were unable to receive direct taxpayer funding.
When then-President Donald Trump’s HHS ruled that groups like Planned Parenthood, who received nearly 40% of Title X patients, would be barred from referring pregnant women for abortions, abortion providers largely withdrew from the program.
The change marked a “significant shift” for the group, according to National Public Radio.
“Planned Parenthood’s withdrawal from the $286 million federal program represents a significant shift in the way the family planning program operates,” the outlet noted during the Trump administration. “The organization has been involved in the program since its inception, and officials say it serves about 40% of the nation’s 4 million Title X recipients, who receive services such as contraception and STD screenings.”
Planned Parenthood and others challenged the rule in court but lost.
“President Biden signaled shortly after taking office that he intended to rescind the Trump-era rule, writing in a memorandum calling for action on women’s health issues that it put ‘women’s health at risk by making it harder for women to receive complete medical information,’” tthe New York Times reported Tuesday.
Planned Parenthood called the rule reversal “a major victory for patients, access to sexual and reproductive health care, and health equity,” and called the grant program a “critical piece of our social safety net that can, and should, ensure that people with low incomes can access essential health care without forcing providers to withhold referrals for all of the options available to them.”
The group still suggested, however, that the Biden administration’s HHS did not go far enough, because it allows “objecting individuals and grantees” — presumably crisis pregnancy centers and other religious organizations that provide women’s health services — not to refer patients to abortion providers.
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