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Public comment period now open for proposed Protect Life Rule for Title X

WASHINGTON — The public comment period on the Protect Life Rule, a proposed revision to Title X regulations, opened June 1 and will close July 31.

The Office of Population Affairs, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, oversees the Title X Family Planning Program.

In May, the Trump administration proposed reinstating Reagan-era regulations to prevent funds appropriated under Title X from being used in programs that include abortion as a method of family planning or that make abortion referrals. However, the changes would not affect the amount of money spent on Title X grants.

When an agency proposes changes to regulations, it specifies a comment period, usually between 30 and 60 days, during which the public may submit comments about the rule. After the comment period closes, the agency will consider the new data and arguments it received and either terminate, revise or proceed with the proposed changes.

According to the Office of Population Affairs, the proposed revision is based on the most accurate interpretation of the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, which enacted Title X. Section 1008 of this act states that “none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

After looking at this text, the purpose of the statute and the legislative history of the 1970 law, the agency said it has decided that “that prohibition includes any action that directly or indirectly facilitates, encourages, or supports in any way the use of abortion as a method of family planning.” Since current regulations regarding Title X only prevent money from funding activities that directly facilitate abortions, the change is aimed at bringing the regulations in line with the intent of Section 1008.

The proposed Protect Life Rule would reinstate Title X restrictions issued in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan.

With these proposed changes, the Office of Population Affairs, or OPA, said it hopes to address several problems with the current regulations. Under the current regulations, Title X programs must offer abortion counseling and referrals to abortion clinics to pregnant women upon request. The OPA believes that doing so requires that Title X money be used to facilitate abortion, so facilitating abortion contradicts its interpretation of Section 1008.

Concerns regarding the fungibility of money also motivated some of the proposed rule changes, according to the OPA. Current regulations only require that family planning organizations that both receive Title X money and do non-Title X abortion-related activities carefully keep the money for these two functions separate.

According to a poll conducted by McLaughlin & Associates, 48 percent of Americans favored preventing taxpayer funds from going to clinics that perform or refer for abortions, while 40 percent were opposed.

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