House Democrats sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar Thursday demanding justifications for the recent rule change that would bar federal Title X family planning funds from going to facilities that provide abortions or give abortion referrals.
The rule requires “clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning.” HHS argues that “this separation will ensure adherence to statutory restrictions, and provide needed clarity for the public and for Title X clinics about permissible and impermissible activities for Title X projects.”
The rule also prohibits “referral for abortion as a method of family planning” and is called a “gag rule” by its opponents, however, it still permits “non-directive counseling on abortion.”
House Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Chairwoman Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chair Diana DeGette (D-CO) wrote of their concerns over the rule potentially “dismantling the network of qualified family planning providers and threatening access to care.”
“We have serious concerns regarding the final rule’s compliance with the Title X statute, the public health implications of this action, and the Administration’s rationale for these changes,” they wrote. “Additionally, we have questions about the Department’s expansive claim of authority under this rule, HHS’s failure to account for the significant costs created as a result of the final rule, and the internal regulatory process used by the Department to review and finalize this rule.”
They sent a list of questions regarding the rule change that included asking whether HHS had “specific examples” of co-mingling and misuse of Title X funds in order to justify the physical separation requirements for organizations that provide abortion.
“Given that this rule clearly adversely affects public health, why did the Administration not choose to consider this final rule to be ‘economically significant,’” they asked.
The Democratic leaders finally asked if HHS consulted “with any external organizations, advocacy groups, or non-governmental entities in the drafting or finalization of this rule.”
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, runs 13 percent of Title X centers and serves about 41 percent of Title X patients, according to their website. Planned Parenthood receives about $60 million from the program and stands to lose that amount as they are unwilling to comply with the new rule.
According to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, the letters' authors have received thousands in campaign donations from Planned Parenthood.
Rep. DeGette, who is a co-chair of the Congressional pro-choice caucus, got $6,514 in campaign donations from the abortion provider since 2016.