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Will the GOP Go After Abortion Through Title X?

by Countable | 11.2.17

What’s the story?

The Washington Post reports the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) will soon issue an annual "notice of funding" for Title X. With the collapse of healthcare reform, it may be the easiest way for anti-abortion members of the GOP to restrict access to abortion, by drastically limiting the ability for family planning providers to provide the full range of family planning services.

What is Title X?

Title X is the federal family planning program, established in 1970 as part of the Public Health Service Act. The program provides comprehensive family planning and related preventative health services primarily to low-income and uninsured individuals at little to no cost. The goal of the program is to provide positive birth outcomes and healthy families by offering individuals the ability to choose the number and spacing of their children.

Everything from contraception to cancer screenings to testing and treatment of sexually transmitted disease, as well as pregnancy counseling, are provided by the program. According to the 2016 Title X annual report, the program provides funding to almost 4000 sites in all 50 states. In 2016 the federal government provided $286.5 million to family planning and related services through the program.

President Ronald Reagan restricted the program in the 1980s. He enacted rules that barred participating providers from referring patients to abortion providers, counseling patients that abortion was available or sharing finances or a physical location with a provider of abortions. President Bill Clinton rescinded that rule in 1993.

Anti-abortion advocates have taken issue with Title X funding in recent years because they believe that by providing funding money to providers who also offer abortions, even if federal money never directly pays for abortion services, indirectly enables abortions to continue. One of those advocates, Teresa Manning, now administers Title X as deputy undersecretary for DHHS’s Office of Population Affairs. Manning previously lobbied for the National Right to Life, a prominent anti-abortion group.

The administration also released an HHS strategic plan last month that stated that life begins at conception, a shift from the previous administration.

Possible changes to the program could include barring funding to any provider who also provides abortion services, limiting the types of contraception covered, or force a shift in focus from birth control to abstinence. In the spring a rule was enacted to give states a choice to restrict Title X funding to providers that also provide abortion, but that restriction is not yet universal to the Title X program.

Barring funding to providers who also provide abortion services would prevent any funding from going to Planned Parenthood, long a focus of GOP anti-choice activism. The Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice group originally founded by Planned Parenthood, has been raising alarm bells about possible rule changes:

What do you think?

Should new rules be enacted to restrict Title X funding, or change the nature of its services or focus?

Tell us in the comments what you think, then use the Take Action button to tell your reps!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Sarah C via Flickr / Creative Commons)

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