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Biden Administration Reverses Trump-Era ‘Gag Rule’ on Abortions

Young women from Paideia High School hold signs during a protest against recently passed abortion ban bills at the Georgia State Capitol building on May 21, 2019 in Atlanta.

Young women from Paideia High School hold signs during a protest against abortion ban bills at the Georgia State Capitol building on May 21, 2019 in Atlanta.

In a major win for reproductive rights, the Biden administration announced Monday that it would discontinue the Trump-era  “gag rule” on abortion. The 2019 rule prohibited health providers from receiving any Title X funding if they discuss abortion with patients or provide referrals for abortions to patients. Under President Joe Biden, the Title X program will revert to its 2000-2019 version as of Nov. 8, which included no such ban.

The ACLU praised the change Monday as having restored a “vital safety-net family planning that millions of people rely on.”

The change means that the many clinics which withdrew from the program — including Planned Parenthood — can now resume providing healthcare without having their federal funding restricted.

The Trump administration was harshly criticized for adopting the “gag rule,” not only for the practical results it caused, but also because the rule was seen as redundant. The 1976 Hyde Amendment already forbade the use of federal funding for abortions, making a further prohibition largely unnecessary.

Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America provided the following statement regarding the change:

“The end of the Title X gag rule is a major victory for patients, access to sexual and reproductive health care, and health equity. Title X is a critical piece of our social safety net that can, and should, ensure that people with low incomes can access essential health care without forcing providers to withhold referrals for all of the options available to them. Given the attacks on abortion in Texas and across the country, it’s more important than ever that patients can access their choice of birth control and other health care through Title X — and that it is easily available.”

Johnson continued, however, arguing that the Biden administration did not go far enough in its revision of the rule. Even with the changes to occur in November, there is no prohibition against Title X providers that refuse to counsel or refer patients to abortions.

Johnson commented that it is “disappointing” that providers would be permitted to refuse these actions “due to their own personal beliefs.”

“Due to centuries of systemic inequities that have blocked access to health care and economic advancement,” Johnson continued, “Title X disproportionately serves Black and Latino patients, and people living in rural communities.”

Johnson thanked the Biden-Harris administration for “swiftly ending the harmful policy and prioritizing access to sexual and reproductive health care.”

The issue of federal funding for healthcare providers that perform abortions has long been a thorny political issue. During Joe Biden’s campaign for the presidency, he reversed his earlier support of the Hyde Amendment — a change that was harshly criticized in political circles.

At the time, David Axelrod, the former chief political strategist for Barack Obama, called Biden’s handling of his position on the Hyde Amendment “an awkward flip-flop-flip.”


[Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images]

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Elura is a columnist and trial analyst for Law & Crime. Elura is also a former civil prosecutor for NYC's Administration for Children's Services, the CEO of Lawyer Up, and the author of How To Talk To Your Lawyer and the Legalese-to-English series. Follow Elura on Twitter @elurananos