Sneak Preview: HHS Amends Title X Family Planning Regulations

Jerry Ashworth
March 15, 2019 at 07:10:55 ET
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(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently amended its Title X family planning program regulations to prohibit the use of program funds to perform, promote, refer for or support abortion as a method of family planning. In addition, the amended rules now require more complete reporting by recipients and subrecipients receiving funds under the program to ensure accountability.

Title X, Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Programs, of the Public Health Services Act, as amended in 2018 (Pub. L. 115-148), provides grant funds to public and nonprofit entities to assist in the establishment and operation of voluntary family-planning projects that offer a broad range of acceptable family-planning methods and services, including fertility awareness-based methods, infertility services and services for adolescents, particularly from low-income families.

Section 1008 of Title X states that “none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” In its regulations at 42 C.F.R Part 59, which was last updated in 2000, HHS previously took the position that section 1008 precluded only funding of activities that “directly facilitate the use of abortion as a method of family planning, such as providing transportation for an abortion, explaining and obtaining signed abortion consent forms from clients interested in abortions, negotiating a reduction in fees for an abortion, and scheduling or arranging for the performance of an abortion, promoting or advocating abortion within Title X program activities, or failing to preserve sufficient separation between Title X program activities and abortion-related activities.” HHS said it no longer considers that position appropriate, stating that section 1008 does not merely prohibit “direct” funding for abortion, it also prohibits all funding for programs “where abortion is a method of family planning.”

“That broad language captures not just the activities of the program itself, but also any activities facilitated, encouraged or promoted by the program,” according to HHS. “Limiting section 1008’s prohibition to only ‘direct’ facilitation of abortion creates confusion about which activities are proscribed by the section, and, in [HHS’] view, fails to ensure that Title X funds are not being used in ‘programs where abortion is a method of family planning.’”

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time here.)

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