Ohio and 11 other states are taking the Biden administration to court over a new policy that will restore Title X family planning funding to abortion providers.
The federal lawsuit, filed on October 25 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, seeks injunctive and declaratory relief. In addition to Ohio, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia are named plaintiffs.
Title X is a program that hands out grants to organizations that provide family planning services. The Biden administration’s intent is to eliminate the prohibition on direct funding of abortion providers that has been in place for decades. Soon after the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 decision in the Roe v. Wade abortion case, Congress passed the Hyde Amendment which bars federal funds to pay for abortion services except to save the mother’s life or in the case of rape or incest.
In the Final Rule for the Title X family planning program, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra eliminated the physical and financial separation of family planning services and abortion and expanded access to grants through Title X federal funding, which cannot be used to fund abortions under federal law.
“In addition to contradicting the text of Title X, the Final Rule is arbitrary and capricious,” states the complaint. “The Final Rule, in abandoning the 2019 Rule’s financial- and physical-separation requirements, did not consider or adopt alternatives to prevent Title X funds from subsidizing abortion.”
Rush to Change
The proposed rule was published on October 7 and became effective one month later, on November 8. The final rule reverts to regulations in place in 2000, with adjustments including, “eliminating requirements for strict physical and financial separation between abortion-related activities and Title X project activities,” in effective repealing the safeguards put in place by the Trump administration.
The Biden administration cut short the traditional public comment, response, and revision period for rulemaking from five months to 30 days, whereas the Trump administration allowed 60 days for public comments alone and did not put the final rule into place until nine months later, says Rachel Morrison, J.D., an attorney and policy analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, told the Heartland Daily Podcast, which is produced by The Heartland Institute, which is the co-publisher of Environment & Climate News, on November 12.
“In short, HHS is rushing this rule through to have it in place for the fiscal year 2022 grant cycle,” said Morrison. “Applications are currently open and close in January.”
Morrison described how her scheduled meeting to discuss the rule change with officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was canceled, in an op-ed in National Review Online on October 8.
“It is apparent that when Planned Parenthood says ‘Jump,’ the Biden administration asks, ‘How high?’ Or should I say, ‘How much?’” wrote Morrison.
Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation, the American Medical Association, and the Guttmacher Institute have all worked to support a Trump reversal, says Melanie Israel, a policy analyst in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.
“In effect, Planned Parenthood can’t accept Title X for contraceptives in one room and abortions in the next room,” Israel told Health Care News. “[Under the Trump rule] Planned Parenthood had chosen to forgo funding; they chose abortion over the other activities in their program.”
Under the new rule with the current administration, Title X applicants must agree to provide abortion referrals on request. Pro-life organizations that do not offer abortions or related services must comply with the stipulation or forgo funding.
“They are cutting off the ability for a pro-life organization that wants to serve women, to [access] funding,” said Israel. “It’s this trickle-down effect with the terms and conditions. They are working to get around the letter and spirit of the law.”
Rule changes aside, Healthy Tomorrows, a non-profit program that could qualify for Title X money because it provides well-woman, well-child, labor and delivery, and post-partum care for low-income women, has chosen to avoid Title X funding, even under the Trump safeguards, says Mark Blocher, President/CEO of Christian Healthcare Centers, which operates the program in collaboration with West Michigan Pregnancy Centers.
“We don’t want to take a single dime from a government entity because there are always strings attached,” said Blocher. “There is always bureaucratic red tape, and it invites oversight and intrusion that we just don’t want. So, we don’t take anything. In fact, when the state sends a check and requests for medical records, we send the check back.”
Blocher has worked many years providing women’s health care in underserved geographic areas and says he’s been careful to exclude the acceptance of federal funds in his organizations’ bylaws.
“Planned Parenthood has become the master of how to fleece taxpayers and then how to shame taxpayers when they say they don’t want to pay for [abortion],” said Blocher. “We provide the same women services, minus the abortion funds. If we can do it, why can’t they?”
Ashley Bateman (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes from Virginia.
The State of Ohio, et. al., v. Xavier Becerra, et.al., Compliant for Injunctive and Declaratory Relief, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, October 25, 2021: https://www.courthousenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/abortion-funding-complaint.pdf
“Biden Administration Wants Tax Dollars to Fund Abortions (Guest: Rachel Morrison, J.D.), The Heartland Daily Podcast, November 12, 2021: https://soundcloud.com/user-694711047/biden-administration-wants-tax-dollars-to-fund-abortions-guest-rachel-morrison-jd?si=960943c0efca47da91a092826c860b26