The Biden administration is moving to reverse a Trump-era family planning policy that critics describe as a domestic "gag rule" for reproductive healthcare providers.
The proposal published on Wednesday would largely return the federal Title X family planning program to its status before Trump took office. The current rules, implemented in March 2019 under Trump, forbid any provider who provides or refers patients for abortions from receiving federal funding through Title X to cover services such as contraception and STD screenings for low-income people.
"As a result of the dramatic decline in Title X services provided, the 2019 Final Rule undermined the mission of the Title X program by helping fewer individuals in planning and spacing births, providing fewer preventive health services, and delivering fewer screenings" for sexually transmitted infections, said the proposed rule published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
The Trump administration implemented the current rules in an effort to "defund Planned Parenthood," as he had promised supporters. That prompted more than 1,000 health clinics in dozens of states, including but not limited to Planned Parenthood, to leave the program. A report by the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights, estimated that the Trump rules reduced the capacity of the Title X network by 46% nationwide.
Under current law, federal funding for abortion is prohibited in most situations — although Biden and many other Democrats support ending that prohibition.
Abortion rights opponents argue that taxpayers who oppose abortion should not be compelled to support, through public funding, any organization involved in providing or referring patients for abortion. Many have advocated for shifting services to crisis pregnancy centers, which counsel patients against abortion, or public health clinics, which provide similar services but often struggle to meet patient demand.
A 30-day public comment period for the newly proposed rules begins on the afternoon of April 15.