President Trump spoke at the annual March for Life event in January. (AP: Manuel Balce Ceneta)
The Trump administration will resurrect a Reagan-era rule banning federally funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions, or sharing space with abortion providers, according to a White House official.
- The Reagan administration barred family planning clinics from discussing abortion with women
- The family-planning program serves about 4 million women a year
- Abortion is legal in the US but family planning funds cannot be used to pay for it
The Department of Health and Human Services will announce its proposal Friday, said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the release.
The policy has been derided as a “gag rule” by abortion rights supporters and medical groups, and it is likely to trigger lawsuits that could keep it from taking effect.
However, it’s guaranteed to galvanize activists on both sides of the abortion debate going into the congressional midterm elections.
The announcement comes as President Donald Trump is scheduled to speak at the Susan B Anthony List’s “campaign for life” gala on Tuesday night.
The group works to elect candidates who want to reduce and ultimately end abortion, spending more than $18 million in the 2016 election cycle to defeat Hillary Clinton and promote a “pro-life Senate”.
The Reagan-era rule barred family planning clinics from discussing abortion with women.
It never went into effect as written, although the Supreme Court ruled that it was an appropriate use of executive power.
The policy was rescinded under president Bill Clinton, and a new rule went into effect that required “nondirective” counselling to include a full range of options for women.
‘Attempt to take away women’s basic rights’
Abortion rights supporters say a ban on counselling women trespasses on the doctor-patient relationship. (AP: Ted S Warren)
According to a Trump administration summary, the new proposal would roll back the Clinton requirement that abortion should be discussed as an option along with prenatal care and adoption.
Known as Title X, the nation’s family-planning program serves about 4 million women a year through clinics, at a cost to taxpayers of about $260 million.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but by law federal family planning funds cannot be used to pay for abortion procedures.
Abortion opponents say a taxpayer-funded family planning program should have no connection to abortion.
Doctors groups and abortion rights supporters say a ban on counselling women trespasses on the doctor-patient relationship.
“This is an attempt to take away women’s basic rights, period,” said Dawn Laguens, a senior Planned Parenthood executive.
She hinted at possible legal action to try to block the Trump administration move, saying, “we will not stand by while our basic health care and rights are stripped away”.
“I cannot imagine a scenario in which public health groups would allow this effort to go unchallenged,” said Jessica Marcella of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, which represents family planning clinics.
Ms Marcella said requiring clinics to be physically separate from facilities in which abortion is provided is impractical, and would disrupt services for women across the country.