HHS officially announces pro-life changes to Title X Family Planning Grant Program

By Jennifer Popik, J.D., Director of Federal Legislation

Last week, National Right to Life and other pro-life advocates cheered the Trump Administration when it announced that a proposal to make pro-life changes to the Title X program was imminent.

Tuesday, Health and Human Services (HHS) filed a rule-making proposal with the Office of Management and Budget to restore Title X family planning regulations to prohibit grantees from co-locating with abortion clinics, or from referring clients for abortions.

In spite of pro-abortion distortions, the proposed rule does not cut one dime of funding for family planning. Rather it merely ensures that funding goes to health facilities that do not perform or promote abortion as family planning.

Last evening, longtime pro-life advocate Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), hosted a Special Order hour for Members to speak in support of the Title X rule where many members voiced their strong support for the move.

Numerous other members of Congress issued statements, including James Lankford (R-OK) who said, “Regardless of our differences of opinion on when life begins, we should all agree that no taxpayer should be forced to fund abortion providers with their hard-earned tax dollars.”

Under the new directive, Title X funds would be directed to health facilities willing to comply with the restored regulations. (Of note, nationwide, of the roughly 4,000 Title X service locations, less than 443 are Planned Parenthood clinics.)

Congress created Title X in 1970 as a preventative family planning program. Congress wrote strong anti-abortion language into the statute to ensure the program did not directly or indirectly promote abortion

Unfortunately, after Roe v. Wade, this language gradually became a dead letter. Title X grantees were first permitted, then required, to routinely refer all pregnant women regarding abortion as a “pregnancy management option.”

For all practical purposes, Title X grantees treated abortion as “a method of family planning,” despite the statutory prohibition.

During the Reagan Administration, pro-life regulations were issued, with National Right to Life’s strong support, to restore the original character of Title X by prohibiting referral for abortion except in life endangering circumstances. Additionally, abortion facilities could not generally share the same location with a Title X site.

In the 1991 Rust v. Sullivan decision, the U.S. Supreme Court found similar regulations permissible.

However, the Clinton Administration would later reverse these pro-life regulations .

In early May 2018, nearly 200 Members of Congress and numerous pro-life groups, including National Right to Life, urged the Trump administration to reinstate pro-life policy regarding Title X regulations, separating abortion services and referrals from the Title X Program.

In a statement thanking the Trump administration National Right to Life President Carol Tobias stated, “We thank President Trump for the numerous actions his administration has taken to restore pro-life policies. We are encouraged to see the announcement of Title X regulations that are back in line with previous policy that prevents federal dollars from being used to directly or indirectly promote abortion domestically.”