January 19, 2018 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced today that it is rescinding a warning issued by the Obama administration to state governments stating that they cannot deny Medicaid funds to Planned Parenthood on the grounds that they are abortion providers.
The warning was issued in 2016 by the HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services after Planned Parenthood complained that 24 states were denying Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood.
The state initiatives to end Planned Parenthood Medicaid funding came in response to an undercover investigation by the pro-life Center for Medical Progress in 2015 that used hidden cameras to expose Planned Parenthood’s business selling fetal body parts following abortions.
However, it is unclear if the rescinding of the guidance will enable states to cut off Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood, because some federal courts interpret existing federal law as prohibiting the states to do so. Louisiana has been ordered to restore Medicaid funding in one federal court ruling in 2017, while a federal appeals court permitted Arkansas to bar the funds to the abortion provider the same year.
Additionally, Richard Severino, the head of HHS's Civil Rights Office, told CNBC that a new regulation is now being proposed that will require health-care providers that receive federal funding to declare that they are respecting the conscience of those workers who do not wish to perform abortions, sterilizations, assisted suicide and other similar procedures on religious or moral grounds. Such a rule could be difficult for Planned Parenthood to implement.
Currently, federal law prohibits Medicaid money from being used for most abortions, although there are exceptions for rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s health. However, it does not prohibit Medicaid money from funding abortion providers for other services categorized as “medical.”
Planned Parenthood, the largest abortion provider in the United States, currently receives 75% of its over $500 million in government funding from Medicaid. The rest comes from HHS Title X Family Planning, which the Trump administration already permits to be withheld from Planned Parenthood.
The announcement comes on the heels of another announcement yesterday by HHS that it was creating a new division within HHS’s civil rights office to enforce conscience protection and religious freedom for healthcare workers.
In November of last year, the U.S. Justice Department announced that it would begin a criminal probe into Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the fetal body parts business. A U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives announced in late 2016 that it was making nine criminal and regulatory referrals against Planned Parenthood, other abortion businesses, universities, and fetal tissue companies in the wake of the Center for Medical Progress exposé.
Today’s announcement came before President Trump delivered a strongly pro-life speech before tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered for the 47th national March for Life in Washington, D.C.
“President Trump and his administration have taken a monumental stand for conscience rights and an important step toward getting American taxpayers out of funding the abortion industry, especially Planned Parenthood,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List.
“Despite reporting record income, Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion services are in steep decline, clients are leaving, and dozens of facilities have closed. Meanwhile, the abortion chain does more than 320,000 abortion procedures per year, and they are under federal investigation for their role in the harvest and sale of aborted babies’ body parts for profit.”
“We urge Congress to swiftly finish what this pro-life administration has started by passing the Conscience Protection Act and redirecting half a billion dollars in annual taxpayer funding away from Planned Parenthood. Abortion is not health care. No one should ever be forced to participate in the destruction of innocent unborn children, and Planned Parenthood does not need or deserve taxpayer dollars.”