Formal Enforcement of Ban on Abortion Referrals Begins

A ban on abortion referrals at taxpayer funded family planning clinics is taking effect immediately, the Trump administration said Monday.  The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) told family planning providers it would begin enforcing the rules after receiving the go-ahead in recent weeks from two federal courts. 

That means clinics receiving family planning grants to provide contraception and other services to low-income women will have to stop providing abortion referrals, or lose their funding.  The requirement that family planning services funded by Title X be financially separate from abortion services also begins today. An additional requirement that abortion services and Title X services be performed in separate facilities won’t take effect until next year. 

The rules have been praised by conservatives and anti-abortion advocates, who saw the changes to the Title X family planning program as a way to cut funding to Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood, which serves 40 percent of Title X patients, has blasted the changes as a “gag rule” on doctors, and has vowed to leave the program if it goes into effect.  But the organization said Monday it will utilize an “emergency fund” to continue providing services to patients.  

“While we are incredibly concerned by this harmful rule, our doors are still open,” Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen said in a statement. Planned Parenthood, the state of California and several other states have sued to block the rules, but were dealt a setback last week when a federal appeals court sided with the Trump administration. 

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