The Trump administration continued to move toward pro-life policies and against Planned Parenthood with further guidance issued today by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
The department has rescinded an Obama administration memo warning states against blocking Medicaid funding for providers that offered abortion. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) now consider that 2016 letter to have overstepped federal regulations; they have restored their position to allow states to regulate their programs within reasonable standards.
While federal funds cannot be used for abortions, Planned Parenthood reports that half of its patients use Medicaid to cover other services like birth control.
“Reinstating the pre-2016 standards frees up states to once again decide for themselves what reasonable standards they use to protect Medicaid programs and their beneficiaries,” said Charmaine Yoest, assistant HHS secretary for public affairs and former Americans United for Life president, according to The Hill.
“This is part of the Trump administration’s effort to roll back regulations the Obama administration put out to radically favor abortion.”
Last year, President Donald Trump signed a law that reversed an Obama-era policy barring states from withholding Title X funds for abortion clinics, and reinstated a ban on federal funding for organizations performing abortions abroad.
The Hill reported that Friday’s move further demonstrates the administration’s support for state efforts to ban Planned Parenthood from Medicaid programs, as Southern Baptists and other pro-life Christians have hoped for years. A Justice Department request in 2017 led abortion opponents to believe the nonprofit was under investigation following concerns that it was illegally profiting from the sale of fetal parts.
Last month, Arkansas officially ended its Medicaid funding for its two Planned Parenthood affiliates following a court ruling in the state’s favor. Indiana tried to do the same in 2011, but ended up blocked in federal court.
HHS positioned the shift as part of its “major actions to protect conscience rights and life,” including a new proposed rule to better enforce 25 federal protections for health care providers who decline to perform abortions and other services, as well as yesterday’s announcement of a new division dedicated to fielding such complaints.
The pro-life push at HHS comes right around Friday’s annual March for Life in Washington, the largest pro-life gathering in the country. While Americans’ support for abortion remains at an all-time high, with over half saying abortion should be legal, states have passed record restrictions in recent years and abortions have fallen to their lowest level since Roe v. Wade.
In the 216-page proposal released today, the department said the changes came in direct response to Trump’s executive order on religious liberty issued last May and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’s guidance on religious liberty released in October:
Pursuant to the President’s Executive Order and Executive Branch policy, and in keeping with the Attorney General’s religious liberty guidance, HHS proposes this rule to enhance the awareness and enforcement of Federal health care conscience and associated antidiscrimination laws, to further conscience and religious freedom, and to protect the rights of individuals and entities to abstain from certain activities related to health care services without discrimination or retaliation