The Trump administration has announced a new rule banning taxpayer dollars from all organizations that promote abortion as a method of birth control. The Ronald Reagan administration implemented a similar prohibition in 1988 and won a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Clinton administration undid the rule, however, and it has never since been fully restored.
The rule threatens federal funding to the nation’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, three years after Republicans with full control of Congress repeatedly failed to make good on campaign promises to defund the organization after undercover videos showed it trafficking in human remains from abortions.
According to a Department of Health and Human Services fact sheet, the proposed rule would require recipients of federal birth control funds to prove they are financially and physically separating federal funds from abortion, “Prohibits the use of Title X funds to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning,” and “Ensures conscience protections for Title X health providers by eliminating the requirement for providers to counsel on and refer for abortion.”
Federal funding for contraception largely emanates from a provision known as Title X, a law that clearly says none of its taxpayer funds “shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” Every year, approximately 4 million people receive Title X provisions. One in five of these is a minor. The new rule also requires Title X recipients to involve minor recipients’ parents or guardians in communications about them seeking taxpayer-provided birth control. It prohibits Title X providers from being under the same roof as an abortion facility, and restricts them from referring women for abortions.
The rules apply to all Title X recipients. Planned Parenthood is the largest recipient of federal Title X funds. “Title X is not supposed to make funds available to abortion providers, but Planned Parenthood gets around the legal prohibition by formally separating its abortion clinics and its other family planning services, even when those are located in the same facility and essentially funded jointly,” writes Yuval Levin.
Under the rule, Planned Parenthood could still receive federal contraception funds if it stopped providing abortions. Since abortions are Planned Parenthood’s highest revenue-generating service, however, that seems unlikely.
“The Protect Life Rule does not cut family planning funding by a single dime, and instead directs tax dollars to entities that provide health care to women but do not perform abortions,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement. “The Title X program was not intended to be a slush fund for abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which violently ends the lives of more than 332,000 unborn babies a year and receives almost $60 million a year in Title X taxpayer dollars.”
The rule also does not affect most of the taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood, even though polls consistently show majorities of Americans oppose using tax dollars to subsidize abortions.
“In the year 2014 to 2015, federal and state funding to Planned Parenthood amounted to $553 million or 40 percent of the organization’s budget,” Newsweek reported last year. “Of the half a billion dollars or so, around 25 percent was Title X funding, the rest was Medicaid reimbursements.”
The rule takes effect 60 days after its publication in the Federal Register, but court challenges are expected.