President Obama is delivering a generous parting gift to Planned Parenthood in the form of a rule prohibiting states from divesting millions of dollars from the nation’s largest abortion provider.
The final version of the rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday, requires states to distribute dollars from Title X of the Public Health Service Act without taking into account whether recipient clinics perform abortions.
The edict is set to go into effect Jan. 18, two days before the presidential inauguration of Donald Trump.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, praised Mr. Obama as a “champion for women’s health” but expressed doubt as to whether the rule will survive under Mr. Trump’s pick to head HHS, Rep. Tom Price of Georgia.
“This rule protects birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other health care for millions of people,” Ms. Richards said in a statement. “Yet this fight is not over. We are deeply concerned about the future of health care access in this country with extremists like Mike Pence and Tom Price at the helm.”
Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican who sits on the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, said the Obama administration “will not have the last word” on the rule.
“We should not be surprised that his administration would lash out with this eleventh hour power grab on the way out the door, but I am certain this rule will not stand for long,” Ms. Black said in a statement. “Come next year, our pro-life majorities in Congress will be positioned to work with President-Elect Trump and pro-life nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, to not only roll back this latest overreach but also to enact new legal protections for these most vulnerable members of our society.”
Title X dollars are earmarked for family planning services such as contraception, as well as testing for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer. They cannot be used directly to subsidize abortions. Planned Parenthood receives approximately $60 million annually from Title X grants, according to a 2015 Congressional Budget Office analysis.
Unlike the $390 million Planned Parenthood receives in Medicaid reimbursements, funding under Title X is provided upfront and can be used toward fixed costs that come with running a clinic, such as staffing and facility maintenance.
At least 14 states have taken action to cut Planned Parenthood’s share of Title X funding in recent years, often allocating those dollars to family planning clinics that do not perform abortions.
The new Title X rule is the latest in a herculean effort by Mr. Obama to prevent Republicans at the state and federal levels from defunding Planned Parenthood, most recently in the wake of an undercover video investigation accusing the abortion giant of trafficking in fetal body parts.
Mr. Obama vetoed a bill stripping Planned Parenthood of the bulk of its funding earlier this year, after Congress for the first time sent such a bill to the president’s desk.
Shortly thereafter, the Obama administration issued a memo warning officials in all 50 states that blocking Medicaid dollars from Planned Parenthood violates federal law.
Steven H. Aden, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom, said states should be able to choose how to allocate resources at the local level.
“The Obama administration, even in its waning hours, has chosen to put Planned Parenthood’s Big Abortion agenda ahead of women’s health and the right of states to decide how best to prioritize public health funding so that patients and the most comprehensive health providers come first,” Mr. Aden said in a statement.
He said Mr. Trump “should restore the focus on women’s health and the ability of states to best serve them by rescinding this Title X order immediately after taking office as president.”
Karen A. Scott, chief medical officer to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, said the rule will “strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country.”
Although Planned Parenthood says abortion is only a minuscule percentage of its services, the number of health care services it provides continues to dwindle.
According to annual reports released by Planned Parenthood, the number of health care services its clinics provided from 2012 to 2014 dropped by 10 percent, from approximately 10.6 million to 9.5 million. Although nearly 3 million patients visited Planned Parenthood clinics in 2012, that number fell to 2.5 million in 2014.
Despite a nationwide abortion downtrend, the number of abortions performed at Planned Parenthood clinics has remained steady or increased. Planned Parenthood performed just under 200,000 abortions in 2001, and that number ballooned to more than 333,000 by 2011.
Mr. Aden said there are plenty of health care clinics more deserving of Title X funds than Planned Parenthood.
“Planned Parenthood isn’t superior to true, publicly funded health care centers — which are far more numerous — simply because it claims to focus on dispensing birth control, despite being America’s largest abortion business,” Mr. Aden said.