The Trump administration proposed rules Friday that create a firewall between federal funds for family planning and abortion services, effectively targeting Planned Parenthood.
The Health and Human Services Department sent its proposed rule to the White House to kick-start the regulatory process, which could take months, without offering many details.
Yet Capitol Hill lawmakers and advocates say the proposed rule change to Title X — a $260 million federal program for contraception and other services — revives a Reagan-era interpretation of the 1970 law that bars clinics from referring patients to abortion services.
It also says clinics that perform abortions under the same roof as other family planning services should not receive Title X money. That means Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider and a frequent target for Republicans, would have to rearrange its operations or risk being carved out of the program.
Federal funding cannot be used for abortion, though Title X grants assist low-income Americans in getting things such as birth control and other reproductive health services.
Mr. Trump’s conservative base has railed against any public funding for Planned Parenthood, saying money is fungible, so taxpayers are propping up the abortion side of their business.
The White House said Friday night that the move fulfills Mr. Trump’s promise “to continue to improve women’s health and ensure that federal funds are not used to fund the abortion industry in violation of the law.”
“This important proposal would ensure compliance with the program’s existing statutory prohibition on funding programs in which abortion is a method of family planning,” the White House said. “The new proposed rule would not cut funds from the Title X program. Instead, it would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions.”
Congressional Republicans cheered Mr. Trump’s proposal, saying it’s important to put keep taxpayers out of the abortion business.
“There are plenty of health care providers, such as community and rural health centers, that provide the family planning needs of women and will be better stewards of the people’s tax dollars,” Rep. Robert B. Aderholt, Alabama Republican, said.
From the other side, Planned Parenthood said the proposal “takes away people’s access to health care and infringes on women’s right to safe, legal abortion.”
Its Democratic allies, meanwhile, called it a “gag rule” that will harm needy women and limit their health care choices.
Planned Parenthood provides contraception services for an estimated 40 percent of the 4 million covered by Title X. Many of them don’t have a backup, Democrats say, so cutting it out of Title X will leave them in the lurch.
“With this decision, President Trump is standing right between millions of American women and their doctors,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer.
Pro-life groups such as the Susan B. Anthony List said there is no “gag rule” — the rule would still allow clinics to counsel women on abortion, just not require them to offer the counseling or refer them for the procedure.
— Dave Boyer contributed to this report.