By Jennifer Popik, J.D. Director of Federal Legislation
The Trump Administration announced today its intention to issue new pro-life regulations surrounding the Title X program to ensure that federal family planning funding does not directly or indirectly promote abortion.
The proposed rule to restore Title X 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.
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.)
Back to the Future
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 woman 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.
Today’s action by the Trump administration addresses that issue. “We thank President Trump for the numerous actions his administration has taken to restore pro-life policies,” said NRLC President Carol Tobias. “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.”
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, these pro-life regulations confirming that abortion is not family planning were ultimately reversed by the Clinton Administration.
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.
We can expect the regulation to restore Title X protections directing that abortion facilities could not be in the same location as where family planning services are delivered. The rule also states that Title X grantees may not refer for elective abortion.