WASHINGTON — The Obama administration finalized a rule on Wednesday that bans states from defunding family planning organizations such as Planned Parenthood because they abort unborn children.
“This rule will strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country,” Chief Medical Officer Karen Scott of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, said in a statement. “Public comments showed overwhelming support for finalizing the rule, which clarifies that all organizations able to provide these services should be eligible to compete for funds.”
A reported 145,000 comments were received about the intended rule.
As previously reported, in September, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking, advising that intended to amend the Code of Federal Regulations to read, “No recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons unrelated to its ability to provide services effectively.”
Title X was enacted in 1970 under the Public Health Service Act and authorizes the Office of Population Affairs to oversee the disbursement of federal funds for the purpose of assisting organizations that offer “family planning” services. States distribute the capital to reproductive and women’s health organizations as they see fit.
In recent years, a number of states have sought to defund the abortion giant Planned Parenthood after granting the organization funds for years, stating that they do not wish to assist groups that provide abortion services, even if the funds will not be directly used for abortion.
But the Obama administration contends that stripping abortion facilities of funding results in undesired births, and that such locations are important because they provide contraceptives.
“Reducing access to Title X services has many adverse effects. Title X services have a dramatic effect on the number of unintended pregnancies and births in the United States,” HHS said in September. “For example, services provided by Title X-funded sites helped prevent an estimated 1 million unintended pregnancies in 2010 which would have resulted in an estimated 501,000 unplanned births.”
The department made similar remarks on Wednesday, remarking that the organizations are valuable because they also provide testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, as well as other reproductive-related services. It acknowledged that its rulemaking effort was meant to stop states from defunding the facilities.
“In the past several years, a number of states have taken actions to restrict participation by certain types of providers as subrecipients in the Title X Program, unrelated to the provider’s ability to provide family planning services,” HHS wrote. “This has caused limitations in the geographic distribution of services and decreased access to services.”
“The final rule clarifies the Title X program regulations by adding that no grant recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services,” it said.
But the religious liberties group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) decried the new regulation, remarking that there are plenty of organizations that offer the same services as Planned Parenthood, minus the child-killing. It said that states should have the freedom to fund the women’s health groups that they wish.
“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,” said Senior Counsel Steven Aden in a statatement.
“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,” he lamented.
According to its annual report released at the end of December, Planned Parenthood performed 323,999 abortions nationwide during the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
The rule is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 18.