While the Trump administration and Republican lawmakers have failed to restrict abortion providers (in the United States, that is) from receiving any federal funds, it doesn’t mean they’ll stop trying.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will likely release funding notices for the Title X program — which funds family planning services to nearly four million, mostly low-income people — next week, according to the Washington Post. Health clinics that provide abortion are currently eligible for Title X grants, as these providers also offer a range of medical services like contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and pregnancy counseling.
Although federal law bars Title X and Medicaid federal dollars from funding the procedure, new notices may include rules that prohibit new applicants from using private dollars to provide abortions. In April, Trump quietly signed a law that gave states the authority to deny Title X funds to abortion providers.
Additionally, new rules could include provisions that cherry-pick birth control options that Title X funds and prioritize abstinence-only initiatives, according to the Post. Today, 4,000 health centers nationwide rely on Title X funding, including Planned Parenthood clinics.
The annual grant program — which totals $280 million and has historically garnered bipartisan support — is the latest vehicle with which this administration can undermine access to reproductive health. The administration has already influenced the reproductive care of many women and gender minorities by making it easier for employers to deny birth control coverage. (Already, one university took advantage of the rule.) Administration officials defended the decision, saying people who need contraception can turn to the Title X program. Additionally, the White House rolled back the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, a grant directed at ending teen pregnancy.
The White House’s faith-based, anti-choice approach should come as no surprise. A draft of HHS’ priorities for this administration defines life “beginning at conception,” language often used by anti-abortion groups. HHS is also packed with appointees who’ve lobbied or advocated for anti-abortion, abstinence only programs. In fact, the person who oversees the Title X program is Theresa Manning, a former employee of the pro-life organization the National Right to Life Committee.
Already, seven states restricted officials from issuing family planning grants to clinics that provide abortions or are “affiliated with agencies” that provide these services. Like Trump’s April Title X law, these state laws had minimal effect. In Arizona, for example, state officials don’t directly distribute the funds but instead are allocated through nonprofits, so the state and federal legislation didn’t affect the grant beneficiaries. The anticipated change first reported by the Washington Post would be more problematic, but also subjected to lawsuits.
If contraception options are scaled back, that too presents a problem. “Without the contraceptive care provided by these health centers, the U.S. rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion would have been 31% higher, and the teen unintended pregnancy rate would have been 44% higher,” according to the Guttmacher Institute.