by Leo Thuman
This week, the Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would begin enacting revised regulations of Title X, a federal grant program for non-profit providers of family planning services. Changes to the program announced in February prohibit organizations which provide abortions from receiving taxpayer money.
Unsurprisingly, abortion providers complained, often citing that federal taxpayer abortion funding is already prohibited by the Hyde Amendment and that the rule is unfair to them. Yet, they conveniently ignore the economic reality that money is fungible. For example, funding any Planned Parenthood activities means that privately-sourced money can then be re-allocated for abortions. Planned Parenthood operates more than half of the abortion clinics in the United States. Without a doubt, these abortion services will be negatively effected by the funding cut, even if the funding wasn’t being directly used for that purpose.
The changes to Title X also include a regulation prohibiting groups which receive funding from referring for abortions — a provision leftists are calling a “gag rule,” in line with their typical hysterics. A good example of one of those intemperate statements was issued by the militantly pro-abortion group NARAL, who bemoaned that the new rule creates “a country where a culture of forced silence dominates over women’s health.”
While such statements may give the impression that these regulations are an unprecedented attack on abortion, that is actually not the case. This so-called Title X “gag rule” isn’t even new: the Reagan administration enacted it in 1984. It was subsequently repealed by the Clinton administration in 1993, drawing significant controversy after more than a decade of pro-life presidencies. Trump’s reinstatement of the rule is simply an organizational shift back towards caution in medical ethics and grantmaking, and even removes oppressive provisions implemented by the Obama administration forcing providers to discuss abortion with pregnant mothers.
These new regulations also frame a really bad week for supporters of elective abortions. Planned Parenthood received heavy criticism for terminating Leana Wen’s presidency on Tuesday after eight months, reportedly because of Wen’s emphasis on medicalizing abortion rather than pursuing aggressive political action. And after this spring’s veritable wave of pro-life state legislation, the abortion lobby was also hit with an Arkansas law taking effect which bans abortions after 18 weeks.
As usual, this win for medical ethics has been a loss for the abortion industry. It is also a boon to conservatives. In addition to forcing Planned Parenthood to defund itself rather than comply, it has also given pro-life clinics a chance to compete against them. Previous rules had made it challenging for faith-based family-planning clinics to receive Title X funding, forcing them to choose between their beliefs and pro-abortion legal mandates. But with the abortion language modified, they will be now able to seek federal grants. As a consequence, they will be able to expand vital prenatal care and sexual health services, and offer a moral alternative to organizations such as Planned Parenthood.
Meanwhile, no doubt Planned Parenthood is simply grateful this week is finally over.
Photo credit: American Life League via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0