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Planned Parenthood, allies challenge HHS pro-life rule

WASHINGTON (BP) — Planned Parenthood and its allies are not going down without a fight to protect the tens of millions of dollars the country’s No. 1 abortion provider receives in family planning money from the federal government.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), the American Medical Association and more than 20 states are among the parties that filed lawsuits March 4 and 5 to block the Trump administration’s new rule that eliminates family planning funds for organizations that perform or promote abortions.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final regulation Feb. 22 that bars the use of Title X money “to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” The rule 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.

PPFA and the American Medical Association led a coalition of organizations that filed suit Tuesday (March 5) against HHS Secretary Alex Azar, urging a federal court in Eugene, Ore., to strike down the rule as unconstitutional. In other challenges to the rule:

— 20 states, led by Oregon, and the District of Columbia sued March 5, also in Eugene.

— California filed suit March 4.

— Washington state announced Feb. 25 it would sue.

The new HHS regulation 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 showed net assets of $1.88 billion at the end of the latest fiscal year.

Planned Parenthood’s challenge to the new HHS rule came as no surprise to Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore and other pro-life leaders.

“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,” said Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), after the final rule was announced.

“Without abortion, there would be no Planned Parenthood because, according to their own president, it is their ‘core mission,'” he said.

PPFA President Leana Wen called the rule “unethical, illegal and harmful to public health” in a news release announcing her organization’s lawsuit.

“[W]e will fight the Trump administration in the courts to protect everyone’s fundamental right to health care,” said Wen, who also charged the rule with forcing health-care professionals to withhold information from patients.

Pro-life leader Marjorie Dannenfelser said Planned Parenthood and other abortion businesses “have treated the Title X program like their own multimillion-dollar slush fund” for years.

“Now, Planned Parenthood’s allies are running to court to ensure taxpayers are forced to continue filling the coffers of the abortion industry,” said Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List.

Xavier Becerra, California’s attorney general, said the rule “denies patients access to critical healthcare services and prevents doctors from providing comprehensive and accurate information about medical care. President Trump treats women and their care as if this were 1920, not 2019.”

The new HHS regulation does not prohibit nondirective counseling regarding abortion, but it ends the requirement that Title X recipients must provide abortion counseling and referral. It also does not reduce Title X funds.

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 Reagan administration issued similar regulations in the 1980s, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld them in 1991. The Clinton administration rescinded those rules, however.

As the federal government’s family planning program, Title X serves about four million Americans — those of low income in particular.

The states that joined Oregon in the lawsuit were Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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.