Trump administration bans abortion referrals at U.S.-funded clinics

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Under the new rule, posted Friday by the federal Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs, any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions is ineligible for Title X funding to cover STD prevention, cancer screenings and contraception.

It would also prevent employees at these Title X family planning centers, such as Planned Parenthood, from telling women where they can obtain an abortion, The New York Times reported.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, called the new rule a "decisive action to disentangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood".

The Trump administration has issued its final draft of a rule that makes sweeping changes to Title X, the federal program that provides birth control and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans. Health and Human Services Department officials have said they were necessary to ensure transparency and the legal and ethical use of taxpayer funds.

Known as Title X, the family-planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates, which serve about 40 percent of all clients. Clinics must be "physically and financially" separate from abortion providers to be eligible for Title X funds. If a pregnant patient has made a decision to have an abortion and makes an explicit request for a referral, physicians would be allowed to provide a list of comprehensive care providers as long as they do not indicate which of them offer abortion services.

The new regulation "permits, but no longer requires, nondirective pregnancy counseling, including nondirective counseling on abortion".

President Trump and Republicans generally have been agitating the air in recent weeks about the tiny number of late-term abortions being protected under new state laws that protect this option in cases where the woman's life or health is at risk.

The rule advances President Trump's promise to stop taxpayer funding of abortion businesses and comes as no surprise after Trump's February 5 remarks at the State of the Union Address: "Let us reaffirm a fundamental truth - all children, born and unborn, are made in the holy image of God".

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"Abortion is neither health care nor family planning which is why the Title X program has no business funding it", March for Life president Jeanne Mancini echoed in a statement.

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, recently told NPR that withholding information about abortion from Title X patients would violate medical ethics. They have also described it as an indirect way to defund Planned Parenthood, which has always been a target of antiabortion activists as the nation's largest provider of reproductive care services.

"Every woman should be able to access reproductive health care when and where she needs it", Mills said in a statement.

Religious conservatives see the administration's action as a way to break down what they call an indirect taxpayer subsidy of abortion providers.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., the chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said the new rules move Title X closer to "its originally intended goal - the provision of family planning services, not abortions". The organization said the requirements of clear separation between family planning clinics and abortion facilities would force it to build separate entrances and exits at its facilities along with other measures.

Katherine Ragsdale, the interim president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), said in a statement that "any attempt to reduce access to comprehensive reproductive health care simply to score political points with anti-abortion extremists is unacceptable".

The Trump administration is now rolling back the Clinton requirement that abortion be discussed as an option along with prenatal care and adoption.

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