Trump sets up abortion obstacles, barring clinic referrals
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Trump administration on Friday set up new obstacles for women seeking abortions, barring taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from making abortion referrals. The new policy is certain to be challenged in court.
The final rule released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department also would prohibit federally funded family planning clinics from being housed in the same locations as abortion providers, and require stricter financial separation.
Clinic staff would still be permitted to discuss abortion with clients, along with other options. However, that would no longer be required.
The move, decried by women’s groups and praised by religious conservatives, is the latest in a series of Trump administration efforts to remake government policy on reproductive health. But it could be some time before women served by the federal family program feel the full impact.
Women’s groups, organizations representing the clinics, and Democratic-led states are expected to sue to block the policy from going into effect. Administration officials told abortion opponents on a call Friday that they expect legal action, according to a participant.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
Planned Parenthood, whose affiliates are major providers of family planning services as well as abortions, said the administration is trying to impose a “gag rule,” and launched a full campaign to block it. Congressional supporters of the organization said it receives about $60 million a year from the federal program.
“I want our patients to know this — we will fight through every avenue so this illegal, unethical rule never goes into effect,” said Planned Parenthood’s president, Dr. Leana Wen.
She said the new policy would prevent doctors from referring women for abortions “even if your life depended on it.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared: “Republicans must end their relentless assault on women’s health care and rights.”
It’s a gag rule “for all intents and purposes,” said the American Medical Association.
“The patient-physician relationship relies on trust, open conversation and informed decision making and the government should not be telling physicians what they can and cannot say to their patients,” the AMA said in a statement.
Planned Parenthood and other groups representing the clinics say the new requirements for physical separation of facilities would be costly and all but impossible to fulfill. Planned Parenthood said the administration is making another attempt to drive it out of business, after efforts to deny funding failed in Congress.