Opponents of abortion have launched an all-out campaign. They’re urging the administration to bring back Reagan-era abortion restrictions on federal family planning dollars. These changes would specifically target Planned Parenthood.
The regulations would ban organizations that receive family planning dollars under the Title X Family Planning Program. Title X funds organizations providing services like birth control to low-income women and men.
The Life Issue
“The life issue is a huge motivator for the right. Getting a win on the pro-life side, even if it’s regulatory rather than legislative, would be huge, and encourage people to come out and vote for the members who pushed for action on this,” said Kelly Marcum, a legislative assistant for the conservative Family Research Council, which has been pushing for the changes.
Due to a lengthy legal battle, the regulations were never fully implemented. The regulations were upheld by the Supreme Court after Reagan left office. With a Republican president who has promised to defund Planned Parenthood, now is the perfect time to restore the regulations.
Their hope is that the restrictions will dissuade Planned Parenthood clinics from participating in Title X. Clinics will also become be ineligible if their family planning services are offered in the same location as abortion services.
“It’s a way to wiggle away at Planned Parenthood federal funding, and a way to reinforce the idea that abortion is not family planning,” Marcum said.
While federal law prohibits the use of federal funding for abortions in most cases, abortion opponents and Republicans have long argued money that goes to Planned Parenthood still indirectly supports the procedure.
Anti-abortion advocates are upset that the GOP Congress’s has failed to defund Planned Parenthood. The GOP’s slim majority in the Senate has been the obstacle.
Frustration worsened when Congress passed a spending bill earlier this year that excluded a measure defunding Planned Parenthood. It was a result negotiated between Democrats and Republicans to avoid a government shutdown.
This month, 85 groups opposed to abortion, including the Family Research Council, signed on to a letter urging Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to restore the Reagan-era regulations. Forty-three Senate Republicans and 153 House Republicans also sent letters to Azar pushing for the changes.
Lobbyists have said the administration seems receptive to their calls.
“They seem very open to it,” said Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs at March for Life. “It was part of the discussions during the transition, and I think it really is just a matter of timing.”