Biden reverses Trump-era ban on federal funds for clinics offering abortion services
In what could be a shaky couple months for abortion rights, the decision is a major win for advocates.
On Monday, Oct. 4, the Biden administration officially reversed a Trump-era rule that prohibited reproductive health care clinics that provide abortion referrals and services from receiving federal funds.
The new rule, which is set to go into effect on Nov. 8, sets the stage for major providers like Planned Parenthood to once again join Title X, the 50-year-old federal family planning program that fills in gaps in health care access and affordability, particularly for those living in rural or underserved regions.
Breaking: the Biden admin is ending the gag rule on #TitleX funding. Our health centers look forward to once again providing access to affordable, high-quality sexual & reproductive health care through this program. Thanks, @POTUS and everyone who organized to make this happen! pic.twitter.com/Uft3HrSGo6
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) October 4, 2021
In a statement, Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said the new rule is a step forward for family planning care, as it restores the country’s Title X program.
“Today more than ever, we are making clear that access to quality family planning care includes accurate information and referrals — based on a patient’s needs and direction,” Becerra said.
Becerra also highlighted the crucial healthcare that these clinics provide for more than “190 million low-income or uninsured people, such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted infections.”
In a May 2018 speech, former President Donald Trump promoted his administration’s upcoming rule change as a “historic announcement” that delivered a campaign promise.
"For decades, American taxpayers have been wrongfully forced to subsidize the abortion industry through Title X federal funding," he said at the time.
The restriction went into effect in 2019.
Leaders of reproductive health care provides faced a tough choice between proceeding to offer abortion referrals and services — and losing millions of in annual federal funding — or complying with the restriction.
BREAKING: The Biden-Harris administration just finalized regulations to overhaul the Trump-era “domestic gag rule" that devastated the #TitleX national family planning program.
This is a crucial step toward restoring a vital source of care for millions of people in the US!
— Guttmacher Institute (@Guttmacher) October 4, 2021
In 2019, Planned Parenthood declared that it was withdrawing from Title X instead of complying, calling the new restriction an “unethical gag rule.”
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, along with other public health associations, also opposed the restriction.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, told The Washington Post on Monday about how harmful the restriction was.
“I can tell you from conversations over the years how devastating the loss of Title X was for many affiliates and how much of a strong desire there is to be back in the program,” Johnson said.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), since the 2019 rule was put into place, six states no longer have any services funded with federal family planning dollars, and another seven states have care funded on a “very limited basis.”
The number of patients the federal family program served decreased by approximately 2.4 million between 2018 and 2020, and HHS estimates nearly two-thirds of the drop was due to the Trump-era rule.
Funding awards for new grantees are set to begin on April 1, but current grantees can choose to add new clinics to send money to beginning on Nov. 8.
I applaud @POTUS for protecting reproductive freedom by reversing this deeply irresponsible decision.
This gag rule served no purpose except to increase barriers for people seeking medical & reproductive care. https://t.co/Yiv9GUDl4G
— Governor Jay Inslee (@GovInslee) October 4, 2021
By 2023, HHS estimates that the Title X program will be able to care for the roughly 4 million patients it usually has served.
On Monday, Oct. 4, Planned Parenthood Action Fund tweeted in celebration of the announcement.
“HUGE news for providers + millions of patients cut off from sexual/reproductive health services under the Trump administration - like STD treatment, cancer screenings, pre-pregnancy care, & counseling,” the organization wrote.