The Obama administration is proposing a new rule that would require states to continue to fund Planned Parenthood, countering gains by the pro-life movement to defund the abortion provider at the local level in the wake of the undercover video investigation alleging the clinic traffics in fetal body parts from abortions.
The Department of Health and Human Services rule would prevent states from redirecting Title X funds, which are earmarked for family planning services, to other Federally Qualified Health Centers for reasons “unrelated to their ability to provide Title X services effectively.”
Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican who wrote the House-approved “Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015,” said the rule is just the latest “stunt” by the Obama administration to “protect its friends in the big abortion industry.”
“We must use the full force of Congress and the grassroots strength of the national pro-life movement to defeat this absurd rule and prevent the Obama administration from acting unilaterally to carry out political favors and prop up a scandal-ridden abortion provider,” Ms. Black said Tuesday in a statement.
Since the pro-life group Center for Medical Progress released a series of secretly recorded videos in July 2015 showing Planned Parenthood executives discussing the trade for fetal body parts, 14 states — including Texas, Ohio and North Carolina — have taken action to redirect Title X funds from the nation’s largest abortion provider.
Although new recipients meet Title X eligibility requirements, HHS says whether a clinic performs abortions or traffics in fetal body parts from them are not criteria by which determinations of funding can be made.
Additionally, because the Hyde Amendment already prevents federal dollars from being used for abortions, the agency argues, it is unreasonable to redirect Title X funds from centers that perform abortions, especially when doing so would “adversely affect accessibility of Title X services.”
“The amendment precludes project recipients from using criteria in their selection of subrecipients that are unrelated to their ability to deliver services to program beneficiaries in an effective manner,” the rule says.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, praised the Obama administration rule as one that will make “a real difference in so many people’s lives.”
“Women in nearly half the states in the country have faced political attacks on cancer screenings, birth control, and other basic care,” Ms. Richards said in a statement last week. “This rule makes it clear that politicians cannot ignore the law as they pursue their agenda to stop women from getting the care they need.”
Once the comment period begins, the agency will consider revisions to the rule for 30 days before issuing final regulations.
The Obama administration previously has employed similar reasoning to protect Planned Parenthood from accountability at the local level.
In April the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issued a directive to states informing them that providing “the full range of women’s health services” is not a legitimate reason to strip an entity of Medicaid funding.
The administration also has directly subsidized abortion providers in several states where federal dollars were redirected to other certified clinics that do not perform abortions.
In 2013, for instance, the Department of Health and Human Services directly gave $13 million in Title X funding to a coalition of abortion providers in Texas after the state passed a law redirecting public dollars to clinics that do not perform abortions.
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy adviser for The Catholic Association, said the new HHS rule is just the latest effort by the Obama administration to fund abortion providers at all costs.
“The Obama administration is once again unilaterally trampling on the rights of conscientious citizens and of states that object to their taxpayer funds flowing to the nation’s largest chain of abortion clinics, Planned Parenthood,” Ms. Ferguson said in a statement.