December 14, 2016; Boston Globe
On January 18th, a mere two days before Donald Trump assumes the presidency, a final HHS rule will take effect to bar states from withholding Title X federal family planning funds from clinics that provide abortions. Proposed three months ago, the rule, which was initiated in reaction to local defunding efforts targeting Planned Parenthood, would prevent state and local governments from discriminating against Planned Parenthood and other clinics that offer abortion services when allocating federal funds for services related to contraception, sexually transmitted infections, fertility, pregnancy care, and breast and cervical cancer.
A number of state courts have already ruled against these kinds of restrictions on Medicaid funding, asserting that patients should be provided the chance to choose their health care providers. In April, the Obama administration made it clear that any state withholding such payments to Planned Parenthood would lose some of its federal Medicaid funding, but Title X was less well protected.
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Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards said in a statement that the rule cemented President Obama’s legacy as a champion of women’s reproductive rights. Still, she said, no one should expect a respite from the fight, as there are sure to be attempts at reversals as well as attacks on other flanks.
“This rule will strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country,” Dr. Karen A. Scott, chief medical officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement.
Revoking the rule would require a new rule-making process or a joint resolution of disapproval by the House and Senate and president.—Ruth McCambridge