President Donald Trump's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced Monday it has started to enforce its "domestic gag rule," which blocks health providers that offer abortion or even discuss it with patients from receiving federal funding via the Title X program.
"For more than two years, the Trump administration’s needless meddling and mismanagement of Title X has led to uncertainty and confusion," Michelle Kuppersmith, director of reproductive rights watchdog project Equity Forward, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "Moving forward with this policy to take away women’s rights before the legal process has played out is reckless and will hurt those whom HHS is supposed to serve."
The controversial rule is currently being challenged in court, but the administration can go ahead and implement it following the reversal last month of a nationwide preliminary injunction. The administration announced the policy, known as the "Protect Life Rule," in March. It has already successfully implemented a version of the rule internationally, banning foreign non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from receiving federal funds if they offer abortion care or referrals to their patients.
Besides banning abortion referrals, the domestic gag rule requires providers to maintain their finances separate from facilities that offer abortion care. A third requirement, set to go into effect next year, dictates that health providers receiving Title X funds cannot share a physical space with providers who offer abortions.
Title X offers over $250 million in federal funds to health providers that can be allocated for family-planning services, such as birth control, and other types of healthcare such as gynecological exams, cancer screenings, STI testing, and more. None of the funds are used for abortions, since the 1977 Hyde Amendment already prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for the procedure. The program serves about four million people a year, most of whom are low-income.
A main target of the new policy is Planned Parenthood and its affiliate clinics, which serves about 40% of people who get their healthcare through Title X. The Trump administration could cut as much as $60 million in funds for the organization if it doesn't follow the domestic gag rule. Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen confirmed the organization won't comply with the restrictions, and instead will use its emergency funds while the legal battle continues.
"While we are incredibly concerned by this harmful rule, our doors are still open," Wen said in a statement, according to Politico. "Planned Parenthood will not stop working to block this dangerous and unethical rule that allows the government to censor our doctors and nurses from doing their jobs."