On April 15 – traditionally known as “Tax Day” – the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), under the direction of President Biden, announced its proposed changes to undo the Trump Administration’s 2019 rule on Title X funding. Under the Trump Administration’s rule, Planned Parenthood was blocked from receiving $60 million in taxpayer-funded Title X grants because it refused to comply with the language of Title X that prohibits any grantee from performing or promoting abortion as a method of family planning.
The Biden Administration’s proposed rule, which is open for public comment until May 17 – our actual Tax Day this year – will not only undo all of the protections the Trump rule put in place, but it will add a requirement that forces Title X grant recipients to provide counseling on “pregnancy termination,” i.e., abortion.
As we’ve detailed for you before, the current rule enforces the express language of Title X which prohibits funding of “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” Now, the Biden Administration wants to return the rule to the 2000 version, under which the abortion prohibition was interpreted to merely prohibit grants from being used to directly fund abortion. Thus, under that rule, if a patient visited a clinic that did not “provide” abortion services, that clinic could refer the patient to another clinic that did perform abortions. Often such referrals were to a clinic that shared the same facilities and even the same staff as the referring clinic.
This was nothing more than accounting gimmicks intended to circumvent and exploit a “loophole” that it, by its own interpretation, intentionally created in the law.
Like the 2000 Clinton rule, the Biden Administration’s proposed rule goes a step further, stating that while a project must “[n]ot provide abortion as a method of family planning”:
“A project must: (i) Offer pregnant clients the opportunity to be provided information and counseling regarding each of the following options: (A) Prenatal care and delivery; (B) Infant care, foster care, or adoption; and (C) Pregnancy termination.”
This language from the proposed rule appears to be in direct conflict with the Weldon Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from discriminating against a health care entity that “does not provide, pay for, provide coverage of, or refer for abortions.” By adding the word “must,” HHS’s proposed rule reads as requiring pro-life health care entities, in violation of their consciences and their very purpose, to provide counseling and information on abortion. In other words, the proposed rule appears to indicate that if a health care entity does not provide counseling on abortion, then they cannot be considered for a grant.
The ACLJ is currently drafting a public comment opposing the proposed rule and will be submitting it before the May 17 deadline. And we need you to take action with us.
Back in 2019, the ACLJ supported the HHS rule put forward by the Trump Administration. At the time, we submitted a public comment on behalf of the ACLJ and more than 175,000 of our members. We also urged our members to submit their own comments, and over 13,000 individual members did just that – accounting for more than 10% of all the comments that were submitted.
These public comments are incredibly important, as they let the federal government know that its citizens are paying attention to what is going on and will hold the government accountable for actions or rules with which they disagree. HHS is required to keep a record of how many people support or object to any rule. That is why you need to make your voice heard by signing onto the public comment we will be submitting, and/or by submitting your own comment.
We’ve made this process simple by preparing a form you can fill out and providing a sample draft comment for you. You can use it, edit it, or create your own comment. Then hit the “Submit Message(s)” button, and the comment will be submitted directly to HHS. It’s really that easy and could have a critical impact. Submit your own comment here. And sign our petition below to sign onto our comment as well.
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