On Jan. 28, President Joe Biden signed a memorandum that marks the first step towards restoring federal funding for Planned Parenthood clinics.
The memo directs the Department of Health and Human Services to look at the current regulations in place for the Title X family planning program and decide whether to suspend, revise or rescind those regulations. The Title X program provides federal funds to clinics that serve low income and uninsured people.
There is a section within the Title X statute that states funds cannot be "used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." Before Trump took office, that was interpreted to mean federal funds could not be used to directly pay for abortion services. Money could still go to clinics where abortion services were provided or which referred patients for such services. The Title X funding had to be kept financially separate from abortion-related activities and funding.
The Trump administration issued a new regulation in 2019 that said federal funds could not be distributed to any clinic that provided referrals for abortions. It also required any pregnant patients to be counseled for prenatal services regardless of their pregnancy intention. In response, Planned Parenthood withdrew from the Title X program in August 2019.
As a result of Biden's memorandum, HHS will now evaluate the Trump administration regulation and issue their own rule, which will then be subject to a period of public comment. That could take months.
The Supreme Court is also reviewing three cases challenging the Trump administration's Title X rule, which could complicate things.
If HHS does issue a new rule that allows Title X funding to be given to clinics who provide abortion referral services, that doesn't mean those clinics will receive the funds right away. Clinics will then have to reapply to the Title X program and rejoin their state's networks.
"It won't just be like flipping a switch to get all the providers of the Title X program back in," Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said to reporters on Jan. 26.
Still, it appears to be the first step toward bringing Planned Parenthood back into the Title X program.
We rate this promise In the Works.