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Obama administration finalizes rule barring states from withholding Title X funding from Planned Parenthood

The Obama administration on Wednesday finalized a rule that will prohibit states from withholding Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and other health care facilities that provide abortion care, the New York Times reports.

According to the Times, the rule is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 18.

Background

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed the rule in September, following multiple states' efforts to defund Planned Parenthood by barring the organization from receiving federal funding. The targeted funds included Title X allocations, as well as Medicaid reimbursement.

According to the Times, federal law already prohibits the use of federal funding for abortion care except in limited instances of rape, incest and life endangerment. However, following the release of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood's fetal tissue donation program, antiabortion-rights lawmakers in several states tried to block the organization from using federal funds for other reproductive health care services.

Multiple state courts have struck down state efforts to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding, affirming the right of low-income beneficiaries to receive care from their preferred provider. In April, the Obama administration cautioned all states that ending Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood would be "out of compliance with federal law."

Title X funding

Under the Title X program, funds are allocated directly to states and nongovernmental organizations, which then award the money to health care providers seeking funds for services such as contraception, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, fertility, pregnancy care and screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

According to the Times, Planned Parenthood accounts for about 10 percent of the health care facilities that receive Title X funding. However, the organization provides care for about one-third of all patients receiving relevant health care services.

Details on finalized rule

The finalized rule, which will be posted to the Federal Register on Monday, mandates that state and local governments allocate Title X funding to eligible health care providers regardless of whether they offer abortion care.

Karen A. Scott, chief medical officer at HHS, said, "This rule will strengthen access to essential services like cancer screenings and contraception for some of the most vulnerable patients in this country." Further, noting that 91 percent of the estimated 145,000 responses to the draft rules were positive, Scott added that "public comments showed overwhelming support for finalizing the rule."

Rule under the new administration

President-elect Donald Trump might move to undo the rule after he takes office, given statements he has made pledging to roll back rules and regulations established under Obama's administration.

However, HHS said Trump's potential efforts to undo the new Title X rule would be a time-consuming process. Specifically, HHS officials said rolling back the rule would require the creation of a new rule-making process or a resolution of disapproval, jointly issued by the House and Senate and supported by Trump once he is in office (Calmes, New York Times, 12/14).