Tuesday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released the full text of the proposed regulations to Title X funding, which Planned Parenthood, NARAL, media outlets, and political figures are labeling a “domestic gag rule.”
Title X is “the only discrete, domestic, Federal grant program focused solely on the provision of cost-effective family planning methods and services” (p. 21). As such, measures are regularly taken by the federal government to regulate access to funds and compliance with grant rules.
The text first tells the history of Title X and its accompanying regulations (p. 3-13), then outlines reasons for changing the rules (p. 13-40). Especially worthy of note, published information from Guttmacher concerning how facilities use Title X funds and numerous legal suits against Title X facilities demonstrate the current regulations are not enough to protect Title X funds from being misused.
The document further elucidates the specific modifications, reasons for change, and expected impacts of the regulations (p. 44-98). Also included are alternatives considered and why they were rejected (p. 109-129).
The new regulations do prevent abortion from being performed, promoted, referred for, or supported as a family planning method. They also require the physical and financial separation of entities which perform abortions from those which receive Title X funds (p. 119-125). The regulations do not, however, prevent a doctor from offering nondirective counseling on abortion or, when the woman has said she wants an abortion, from providing such woman with a comprehensive list of resources, some of which may be medical providers who also perform abortions (p. 21, 119).
These regulations are not a gag rule. They do not prevent doctors and health care providers from discussing abortion nor do they prevent patients from obtaining information on abortion.
Besides the language on abortion, the new regulations make two other particularly noteworthy modifications: one for increasing compliance of Title X grantees with State and local laws for reporting “child abuse, child molestation, sexual abuse, rape, incest, intimate partner violence or human trafficking” (p. 126), and another for redefining “low-income” to include women whose employer-provided insurance does not cover contraceptive services because of religious beliefs (p. 113).
These proposed rules are a step in the right direction for ensuring taxpayer money does not directly or indirectly fund abortions. They will not go into effect until HHS has collected comments for 60 days. You can voice your support or make suggestions for the proposed rules by visiting http://www.regulations.gov and following the instructions for submitting comments.
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