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Trump administration to ban abortion referrals from family planning clinics

Clinics face losing their federal funding if they continue to refer abortion patients.

The Trump administration has moved to bar family planning clinics that receive taxpayer funding from performing abortions and referring patients to abortion services.

The new policy was issued by the federal Health and Human Services Department (HHS) that updates the Title X federal family planning program.

Under the new rules, any family planning clinic that receives a slice of the $260 million Title X funding would not be allowed to "perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning."

It also requires that there be clear physical separation between family planning clinics and abortion providers, so they cannot both be contained at the same location.

Family planning clinics that continue to refer or perform abortions will lose access to their federal funding, with the Washington Post reporting that the move is likely to divert millions of dollars to faith-based family planning providers who are against abortion.

Although abortions comprise a fraction of the family planning and women's health services offered by Planned Parenthood, the organization has been a target particularly for the anti-abortion religious right.

Planned Parenthood sees the Title X change as an indirect way to defund its services, referring to the ban on abortion referrals as a "gag rule" that will "block millions of Americans from access to the affordable health care they seek at Planned Parenthood clinics."

“This move by the Trump Administration jeopardizes access to health care for patients who receive care through a statewide network of Planned Parenthood-supported Title X clinics," said Sarah Stoez, CEO of Planned Parenthood North Central States.

"As a result, patients could lose access to critical services like birth control, STD testing and treatment and life-saving cancer screenings. The detrimental impact of this policy on the health of Americans’ cannot be overstated. 

"Title X funding is crucial to our public health infrastructure and we will do everything in our power to fight this rule."

On the opposite side, the president of anti-abortion group the Susan B. Anthony List, Marojorie Dannenfelser, told the Post that the move from HHS is a "decisive action to disentangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood."

The HHS move is almost certain to lead to a legal challenge from pro-choice groups.

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