Trump Moves Forward on Partial Planned Parenthood Defunding

Move could spell $50 million loss for nation's largest abortion provider

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May 23, 2018

The Department of Health and Human Services officially issued a new rule that will deny $50 million in taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.

The proposed regulation will put a dent in the more than $540 million that the nation's largest abortion provider receives from taxpayers each year. The department proposal would alter the Title X program, which provides federal funding for contraceptive services, to exclude abortion providers and referrals.

"None of the funds appropriated for Title X may be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning," the issuance released Tuesday night says.

The new rule would also tighten criteria for reporting suspected domestic violence, sexual assault, or other forms of abuse and place strict enforcement that no funds be used for lobbying or political purposes. Pro-life activists frequently accuse Planned Parenthood of both practices, pointing to undercover videos from Live Action that show clinic employees willing to use abortion to cover up statutory rape without alerting authorities. Planned Parenthood has also spent nearly $9 million on lobbying since 2011, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. It was the 20th-largest outside spender in the 2016 election cycle, spending more than $15 million, as well as $4 million in contributions to candidates. Its super PAC, Planned Parenthood Votes, spent $12.7 million in 2016 and has spent $130,000 on the 2018 cycle. The Planned Parenthood Action Fund, a 501(c)4 nonprofit, shelled out $1.46 million in outside spending in 2016 and has spent more than $1 million already in 2018.

HHS debuted the rule as President Trump addressed a pro-life gala hosted by the Susan B. Anthony List. He hailed the new proposal as "historic." The issuance would resurrect a set of rules drafted by the Reagan administration in 1988, but never enforced, disallowing abortion providers to continue receiving funds by co-locating Title X grantees with abortion clinics. House and Senate Republicans have called on the agency to investigate whether taxpayer dollars were misused by such facilities.

"For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry through Title X federal funding," Trump said Tuesday night. "Today, we have kept another promise. My administration has proposed a new rule to prohibit Title X funding from going to any clinic that performs abortions."

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing to prevent the agency from implementing criteria that would hinder their access to taxpayer money. The abortion provider condemned the official issuance as an attack on women.

"This is the worst attack on women's health and rights we've seen from the Trump-Pence administration," Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens said in a statement.

Pro-life groups praised the administration for following through on the Title X changes. Dr. Grazie Pozo Christie, a policy adviser for the Catholic Association, said low-income women will still be well-served by the program and could also provide more comprehensive care since Planned Parenthood clinics do not provide mammograms.

"Americans are well aware that the $50-60 million pouring into Planned Parenthood annually through Title X grants are subsidizing its main business, abortion, and a majority don't want their hard-earned money used to pay for abortions or to prop up a rich corporation's already healthy bottom line," she said in a statement. "Federally funded Community Health Centers, which deliver all sorts of needed services to socioeconomically disadvantaged women—including mammograms and prenatal care—are the appropriate recipients of these funds."

Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life, said the new proposal fulfills decades of work to protect needy women. The regulation will allow grant money to flow to community health clinics that do not perform abortion, which vastly outnumber Planned Parenthood facilities nationwide.

"The March for Life applauds HHS Secretary Azar and the Trump administration for protecting taxpayers from funding abortion through Title X," Mancini said in a release. "Not one dime of Title X funds will be cut and the low income women, who those funds are intended to help, will receive authentic health care at federally qualified health centers (FQHC) which outnumber abortion centers 20:1. At FQHC women benefit from better regulatory oversight, a wider range of services, and more options."

The proposal will undergo a 60-day public comment period when it is officially entered into the federal register.