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Opinion Pieces

Title X Family Planning proposed rule takes an important step forward in protecting unborn life

All life is sacred. This basic principle guided my actions for 15 years as a physician, and continues to shape my thinking today as a policymaker. As a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Select Panel on Infant Lives, I was shocked by the findings of our investigation, which found overwhelming evidence of abortion providers performing partial birth and late term abortions. In addition, they were selling organs, tissues, and body parts by way of back door deals and willing negligence. Even more appalling was the fact that such abortion providers were receiving federal taxpayer dollars intended to provide family planning services.

While Roe v. Wade has left America sharply divided, the majority of Americans have reached consensus on the question of taxpayer funding of elective abortions. According to a January 2018 poll, 60 percent of Americans are opposed to using taxpayer dollars to fund abortion.  That is why President Trump, who campaigned and won on a pro-life platform, recently proposed a rule to reform the Title X family planning program to ensure taxpayer dollars are not flowing to abortion providers. The Hyde Amendment – which has been in law since 1976 – already prevents taxpayer dollars from being used to actually perform an elective abortion. This proposed rule would complement the Hyde Amendment, requiring a complete financial and physical separation between Title X centers and abortion providers, while redirecting funding to health care providers like community and rural health care centers and away from abortion providers. It would also eliminate the current mandate that Title X grantees provide referrals for abortion services, while still allowing for neutral, non-directive counseling about elective abortion.

The Trump administration’s proposed rule is a modest reform of the program, yet it has elicited the predictable, dystopian rhetoric from the pro-abortion left.  A careful look at the history of the Title X program reveals this rhetoric is unfounded.

The Title X family planning program, established in 1970, was created to expand access to basic family planning and reproductive health services for low-income Americans such as education, counseling, health screenings, and preventative health care services.  The law creating the program included a prohibition – which is still in federal law today – to prevent Title X funding going to “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”  Unfortunately, the Title X family planning program has been distorted, blurring the lines between family planning and abortion. 

In 1988, President Ronald Reagan attempted to address this and issued regulation to create a clear line between family planning and abortion services by requiring a physical and financial separation of Title X funds from the performance of, counseling about, and referral for abortions. The Reagan administration’s regulation was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1991. President Clinton quickly rescinded the policy and replaced it with a mandate that family planning services providers must provide an abortion referral. The distinction between family planning providers and abortion providers became even less distinct when they were allowed to be “co-located” within the same facility.  Under the guise of providing family planning services within the same facility, abortion providers were able to access Title X funding.

As a physician, my goal is to ensure that patients have access to quality health care services.  Nothing in the Trump administration’s proposed rule will limit women’s access to health care services. Instead, it will help ensure families receive comprehensive care and treatment from facilities offering a wide range of health care services, which far outnumber abortion clinics. The claims of “co-located” abortion providers providing essential health care services ring hollow. Make no mistake, these organizations exist first and foremost to provide abortion services. Data from the nation’s largest provider of abortion services’ own annual reports make this clear. Over the past five years, the number of abortions it has performed held steady at over 320,000 per year. In contrast, the non-abortion services it provided significantly dropped. For example, the number of cancer screenings and prevention services performed dropped by 41 percent while its contraceptive services dropped by 28 percent.

By requiring a financial and physical separation between Title X providers and abortion providers, the Trump administration’s proposed rule recognizes the reality that abortion services are not health care services. Furthermore, it recognizes that the Title X statute itself prohibits funding for organizations providing abortions services. Nothing in the rule impacts the overall level of funding for the program that is available for family planning services. In fact, it allows more federal funding to reach providers, like community and rural health care clinics. Nor does it impact the ability of Title X providers to offer neutral counseling about abortion services. Instead it merely ends the Clinton-era mandate that Title X grantees must provide a referral for abortion services.

Having preformed operations on premature infants as young as 22 weeks gestation, I know that these innocent lives are precious. I look back on my experiences as a physician and my goal was always to keep people alive and make them healthy again; that has not changed since coming to Congress.  As a physician and a pro-life lawmaker, I am pleased that President Trump has proposed regulations reforming the Title X program.  In doing so, his administration has taken an important step forward in protecting innocent unborn life while also increasing access to family planning health care services.

The Hill