New HHS pro-life rule applauded
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final regulation Feb. 24 that bars the use of Title X money "to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning." The rule, published as a proposal in June, requires "clear financial and physical separation" between Title X programs and non-Title X programs in which abortion is promoted as a method of family planning.
As the federal government's family planning program, Title X serves about four million Americans -- those of low income in particular.
The Protect Life Rule, as it is being labeled, would cut about 10 percent of the government money that goes annually to Planned Parenthood, which reportedly receives $50-$60 million yearly through Title X. The Planned Parenthood Federation of American (PPFA) and its affiliates collected $563.8 million in government grants and reimbursements and performed more than 332,757 abortions in the most recent year for which statistics are available.
PPFA, the country's No. 1 abortion provider, showed net assets of $1.88 billion at the end of the latest fiscal year.
Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore expressed gratitude for the administration's action "that states unequivocally that family planning does not include abortion."
Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), called the HHS rule "a responsible step toward our goal of totally separating taxpayer funds from Planned Parenthood and the abortion industry. Without abortion, there would be no Planned Parenthood because, according to their own president, it is their 'core mission.'"
"We know this profit-driven industry, which devalues human life and exploits families, will do everything in its power to maneuver around this rule as they seek to use taxpayer dollars for abortion," he said in written comments for Baptist Press. "That being the case, we are thankful for these regulations from HHS and continue to call upon Congress to take legislative action. We will not stop until abortion is no longer supported with even a penny of taxpayer funds."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, thanked President Trump and HHS Secretary Alex Azar for guaranteeing Title X "is truly about funding family planning, not abortion."
Title X "was not intended to be a slush fund" for Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses, she said in a written statement.
Catherine Glenn Foster, president of Americans United for Life (AUL), commended the new rule. "It is AUL's long-time policy position that funds appropriated or controlled by the federal and state governments should be allocated away from the subsidization of elective abortion providers and toward comprehensive and preventive women's health care," she said in a written release.
Planned Parenthood officers and other abortion rights advocates decried the regulation.
PPFA President Leana Wen described the rule as "unconscionable and unethical."
"Reproductive health care is health care and health care is a basic human right," she said in a written statement.
In the last Congress, pro-life organizations urged Republicans to keep their promise to defund Planned Parenthood, but they were unable to do so though they had a majority in both houses and a president who supported the effort. Democrats, who back funding for abortion and Planned Parenthood, now control the House of Representatives.
In order for Planned Parenthood and other abortion performers to receive Title X funds, they must comply with the financial separation requirements within 120 days and with the physical separation mandates within a year.
The new HHS regulation also:
-- Ends the requirement that Title X recipients must provide abortion counseling and referral, but it does not prohibit nondirective counseling regarding abortion.
-- Provides protection to victims of abuse, trafficking and other forms of forced sex.
Moore and more than 80 other pro-life leaders urged Azar in a May letter to issue a Title X rule like the one just announced by HHS.
Messengers to the 2017 SBC meeting adopted a resolution calling for defunding of Planned Parenthood at all levels of government and denouncing the organization's "immoral agenda and practices." One of the ERLC's priorities in its 2019 legislative agenda is the defunding of Planned Parenthood.