Trump administration releases Title X rule restricting abortion clinic funding

The final rule requires providers that receive Title X funding to maintain "physical and financial separation" from an abortion provider. (Getty/noipornpan)

The Trump administration released a final rule on Friday which revises regulations around the Title X family planning program to block funding to groups that provide abortion referrals.

Largely seen as a direct attack on Planned Parenthood, the largest reproductive health and abortion provider in the U.S., the final rule requires providers that receive Title X funding to maintain "physical and financial separation" from an abortion provider.

Organizations that receive federal funding were already prohibited from using those funds to fund abortion services.

The final rule will permit—but not require—providers receiving Title X funding to provide "non-directive counseling" about abortion. In other words, they can talk about abortion with patients but cannot tell them where they can get one.

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Anti-abortion advocates have lauded the rule as an effective attack against Planned Parenthood, which would lose millions under the change, and say it will spread Title X funding more widely to other community health centers that provide comprehensive health and family planning services, as well as anti-abortion organizations.

HHS officials said the changes would increase the number of patients served by the Title X program, which serves about 4 million people a year.

Opponents of the proposed regulation have called the move a "gag rule" that will stop providers from providing patients with complete health information.

“This rule interferes with and imposes restrictions on the patient-physician relationship," said Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., president of the American Medical Association, in a statement. "For all intents and purposes, it imposes a gag rule on what information physicians can provide to their patients. The patient-physician relationship relies on trust, open conversation and informed decision making and the government should not be telling physicians what they can and cannot say to their patients."

Planned Parenthood said in a statement the rule puts providers in "an impossible position."

Providers can either "withhold information from patients or get pushed out of a program designed to ensure that people struggling to make ends meet can still access birth control, STI testing, cancer screenings, and other essential reproductive health care," they said.

Proposed last June, HHS officials said they took into consideration more than 500,000 public comments before issuing the final rule.

It is expected that the rule will be challenged in the courts.