The Trump Administration on Friday signaled that it was moving forward with a proposed rule to prevent clinics that perform abortion or that offer abortion referrals from receiving Title X family planning grants.
The new rule which is being called the “Protect Life Rule” is expected to hit Planned Parenthood hard and will likely to strip the abortion giant of tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year.
Although the rule has yet to be released to the public, it is widely believed that it will create a “bright line” of physical separation between family planning facilities and abortion facilities. It is anticipated that it will prevent Title X grantees from being “co-located” within facilities that perform abortion and will prevent grantees from offering abortion referrals.
The Protect Life Rule is also expected to repeal a Clinton era regulation which still requires all Title X clinics to offer information and counseling on abortion as a pregnancy “option.” The Clinton era rule states that Title X clinics “must” offer abortion counseling to any woman who requests any sort of information on pregnancy options unless she specifically makes it known that she does not want to receive counseling on abortion.
The proposed rule is expected to reinstate in large part Title X restrictions that had once been in place under the Reagan Administration that prohibited funding for clinics where abortions were performed or where abortion referrals were offered. However, according to the Washington Post, unlike the Reagan era policy, the new rule will not prohibit clinics from providing abortion counseling or information for women who request it. The Reagan era rule was upheld by the Supreme Court as constitutional in its ruling in Rust v. Sullivan in 1991.
The Protect Life Rule aims to revise Title X regulations to bring them more in line with statutory requirements. Federal law requires that no money awarded through Title X can “be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”
A recent Senate letter sent to HHS Secretary Alex Azar argued that current regulations which allow Title X clinics to offer abortion services are contrary to statutory law by sending a message that the government considers abortion a method of family planning:
Title X programs which are co-located with abortion clinics or refer for abortion send a message that abortion is considered a method of family planning in federally-funded family planning programs, contrary to the law.
The international consensus agreed to by 179 nations at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development states “In no case should abortion be promoted as a method of family planning.”
A total of 41 Senators signed onto the Senate letter to Secretary Azar. A similar letter from the House was also supported by 153 pro-life leaders in Congress.
A notice filed by the Department of Health and Human Services and posted Thursday on the Office of Management and Budget website indicated that the Administration was in the process of reviewing “compliance with statutory integrity requirements.” The Trump Administration on Friday announced its intention to revise Title X regulations to prohibit funding for facilities that perform or offer referrals for abortion.
The Protect Life Rule is the second policy change initiated by the Trump Administration to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to subsidize abortion through Title X. Just last year, the Trump Administration and Congress also worked together to repeal an Obama era rule that would have blocked states from defunding Planned Parenthood through Title X. The rule change had been put in place during the final days of the Obama Administration and was widely criticized by pro-life advocates as Obama’s ‘parting gift to Planned Parenthood.’
Planned Parenthood affiliates spend nearly $60 million in federal funding received through Title X grants every year, according the Government Accountability Office (GAO). After Medicaid, Title X represents the second largest source of government funding for the abortion giant. Approximately 11% of all state and federal funding Planned Parenthood affiliates receive from the government comes from Title X grants.
The new proposed rule will not cut Title X funding for family planning programs. Health facilities that do not offer abortion services will remain eligible for federal funding.
Even Planned Parenthood affiliates would theoretically be eligible to receive funding so long they agree not to perform abortion or offer abortion referrals in clinics offering Title X services. However, given the centrality of abortion to Planned Parenthood’s service mix, it remains uncertain whether the organization would choose to put women’s health first and forgo abortion services in exchange for access to Title X grants.
 42 U.S.C. §300a-6.
 International Conference on Population and Development, Cairo, Egypt, Sep. 5-13, 1994, Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, ¶8.25, Report of the International Conference on Population and Development, U.N. Doc. A/CONF.171113/Rev.1, U.N. Sales No. 95.XIII.18 (1995).