For decades, anti-choice proponents have been trying to make it harder — and ideally, in their eyes, impossible — for women to have access to safe abortions. Individual states have succeeded in setting limits on when abortions can take place. Some have even tried to introduce "heartbeat bans," which would make abortion illegal at roughly 6 weeks gestation. (You know, before many women know they're pregnant in the first place.) However, a new move at the federal level would have devastating consequences. That's because the Trump administration's new rule would essentially defund Planned Parenthood.
As NPR reported, the Trump administration recently issued a final draft of a rule that would make serious changes to Title X — a program that provides reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans. The Department of Health and Human Services Office of Population Affairs posted the new rule on Friday, Feb. 22. You can read through rule in its entirety here. But what does it mean, exactly? Allow me to break it down for you.
If this rule were to go into effect, then any organization that provides or refers patients for abortions would be ineligible for Title X funding — which covers essential things like cancer screenings, contraception, and STD prevention. (Side note: Federal funding for abortion is already illegal in most cases. So what gives, here?) As NPR reported, the rule is expected to be formally published soon in the Federal Register; it would then go into effect 60 days later.
The rule was first proposed in May 2018, as USA Today reported. In a statement, the White House said it requires "a bright line of physical as well as financial separation" between federally funded programs and "any program (or facility) where abortion is performed, supported, or referred for as a method of family planning."
According to The New York Times, the new rule would effectively direct federal family planning funds under Title X to anti-abortion and faith based groups. Clinics would still be able to talk to patients about abortion — just not about where they can get an abortion. Additionally, the new rule would make it so clinics no longer have to inform women about all of their options, including abortion. This means that anti-abortion providers would then be eligible for funding.
The new rule by the Trump administration wouldn't technically be a full de-funding of Planned Parenthood, but it's definitely a big step in that direction, according to Politico. Which is mind-boggling, considering only 3 percent of PP's services are abortions. The vast majority of services performed are for cervical and breast cancer screening, along with testing, education, and referral services having to do with STDs.
Some might also argue this new rule is just one step closing to banning abortion altogether — something that's already a concern, considering Justice Kavanaugh now sits on the Supreme Court. If Roe V. Wade were overturned, it would put women right back where they were during the days of underground abortion clinics. This would make abortions incredibly unsafe, not to mention punishable by law.
The New York Times reported the new rule is almost guaranteed to be challenged in court. In fact, Planned Parenthood executives have already indicated they will fight to block or overturn it — and that they won't apply for Title X funding if it does wind up going into effect. "Planned Parenthood cannot participate in a program that would force our providers to compromise our ethics," President Leana Wen said in a call with reporters, according to Politico. PP has already sent out an email to its supporters asking for donations to make up the millions of dollars in funding if this ends up being the case.
One things' for sure: There's about to be a serious legal battle involving Title X funding. Access to safe abortions — and potentially the lives of those who seek them — is what's at stake, here. Because the rule as it stands essentially defunds Planned Parenthood. And women deserve so much better.