HHS could announce Title X regulations banning Planned Parenthood Friday
HHS plans to announce forthcoming regulations on Friday that would ban Title X family planning providers from referring patients to abortion clinics and prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood.
A White House aide this week confirmed HHS will announce the ban on Friday.
Republican lawmakers of the House and Senate have called on HHS Secretary Alex Azar to implement what women's health groups call a "domestic gag rule," which the Reagan administration implemented in 1988, that would block grantee providers from referring pregnant women for abortions if they want them as well as banning all funds from going to family planning clinics that offer abortion services.
It is unclear whether HHS will announce an emergency rule, which would hit the Title X networks immediately, or post a notice to propose rulemaking. The latter option would slow the process because the public would have the chance to comment, and comments would need to be reviewed before the rule could be finalized.
The timing of the announcement likely throws a wrench into what has already become a messy application process for this year's Title X grants. All Title X grantees need to re-apply for funding this year since the Trump administration cut the previous three-year funding cycles to one year. Applications are due May 24.
In its delayed funding announcement for the Title X family planning grants, the HHS Office of Population Affairs seemed to change the focus of the grants by expanding criteria to include abstinence education, natural family planning and so-called "fertility awareness-based methods," although the announcement said these can't be the only methods offered.
The American Civil Liberties Union and National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association sued HHS this month, asking a U.S. District Court in Washington to block the new criteria. Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio and the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah filed a separate, companion lawsuit in the same court. This week, 20 state attorneys general led by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed an amicus brief in support of the lawsuit.
The Reagan administration in 1988 was the first and only administration to put these limitations on the Nixon-era family planning program. Women's health and public health groups and physicians have urged HHS Secretary Alex Azar not to advance the policy, worrying the Trump administration will follow Reagan's approach.
In a letter to Azar, 110 public health groups said such a rule would "further entrench inequity in our nation's health care system."
The rule "would also contravene commonly accepted ethical and medical standards, such as those upheld by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other professional medical organizations, which underscore informed consent as the cornerstone of medical care," the groups said.
A key part of the rule would prohibit Planned Parenthood from Title X grants by mandating "physical separation" requirements of providers of family planning services and providers of abortion. While Title X and Medicaid by law can't fund abortions, the programs can pay for obstetric, contraceptive and other women's health services.
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