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Forthcoming Trump rule would make finding abortion services harder

A planned rule from the Trump administration would repeal the requirement for federally funded clinics to counsel women on all of their family planning options, including abortion. Yamiche Alcindor puts the proposal in context and what it would mean for abortion clinics, such as Planned Parenthood, that rely on federal funds. Then Judy Woodruff learns more from Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    The Trump administration announced a plan that would strip Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics of key federal funds for other services, if they provide abortion services or even referrals.

    We are going to break down the new regulations in just a moment.

    As Yamiche Alcindor reports, it is a long-sought victory for many Republicans, while Democrats and reproductive rights groups are warning of serious health consequences.

  • WOMAN:

    Stop murdering our babies!

  • YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

    Over the years, women have often faced challenges when trying to obtain a legal abortion. Today, the Trump administration set into motion a new rule that would make it even harder for women looking for abortion services.

    Clinics who receive federal funding for family planning will no longer be mandated to tell women about abortion as an option, and they will not be able to refer women to specific clinics for abortions, a change from current policy.

    On top of that, the buildings where abortions are performed must be completely separate from other women's health services. For clinics that provide abortions or referral services, like Planned Parenthood, that could mean no federal funding for those facilities.

    Social conservatives praised the move. President Trump has had his sights set on defunding Planned Parenthood since his time on the campaign trail.

    DONALD TRUMP, President of the United States: We're not going to allow, and we're not going to fund, as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood. And we understand that, and I have said it loud and clear.

  • YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

    Currently, under what's known as Title X legislation, family planning programs receive $286 million annually from the federal government. Planned Parenthood gets about $50 million to $60 million a year and none of that goes to pay for abortions. Those are funded through private contributions.

    Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens called the move — quote — "a far-reaching attack and an attempt to take away women's basic rights and reproductive rights, period."

    During the Reagan era, a controversial rule went even further, barring family planning clinics from discussing abortion as an option.

    RONALD REAGAN, President of the United States: I call America, a good nation, a moral people, to charitable, but realistic consideration of the terrible cost of abortion on demand. Let us unite as a nation and protect the unborn with legislation that would stop all federal funding for abortion.

  • YAMICHE ALCINDOR:

    Abortion rights supporters called it a gag rule, and even though it never went into effect as written, the Supreme Court ruled it was an appropriate use of executive power.

    It stayed on the books through George H.W. Bush's presidency, but just one day after being inaugurated in 1993, President Bill Clinton rescinded the rule.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Yamiche Alcindor.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    To help us understand what these changes would mean, we're joined by Julie Rovner of Kaiser Health News. She has long covered the battles over abortion, family planning and related issues.

    Julie, welcome back to the program.

  • JULIE ROVNER, Kaiser Health News:

    Thanks for having me.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, lay out for us, what would change under these new rules? What's different from the way the law works right now?

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Well, the way the law works right now, women with unintended pregnancies in federal family planning clinics are required to be counseled on all of their options, whether to have the baby, how to get prenatal care, whether to give the baby up for adoption, or whether to terminate the pregnancy and have an abortion.

    And they are to be referred for abortion if they're in a place that doesn't do it. Basically, this rule, when we see it, says — it says that it will repeal the requirement that women will be counseled on all their options. It won't go as far as the Reagan era rule did that said you couldn't even mention abortion as an option.

    They're saying there is no gag rule.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But just to be clear, so, as of now, providers are required to tell women these are your options and to say to them here's where you can go if you choose to get those services; is that right?

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Yes. And that is a problem for some people who wish to become Title X providers.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, the change would be the person providing health care services could still say, here's your options, but they can't go any further?

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    That's right.

    And if the woman were to say, well, where — I understand that abortion is legal, where could I go to get one, they wouldn't be permitted to tell her.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, when the administration, the White House is saying today this is not a gag rule, they're saying, we're not going as far as President Ronald Reagan did, but the critics of this, the folks who support abortion rights are saying, but if you can't give a woman that information, then you're essentially denying her the ability to move forward.

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Yes, it's a semantic argument.

    But, basically, this is, you know, a broader attempt to evict Planned Parenthood from the federal family planning program, as have many previous attempts have been.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Let's talk about, Julie, who is served by these clinics, whether it's Planned Parenthood or other family clinics. From what we have read, we know it's mostly low-income women who are served.

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    That's right.

    It's mostly younger women. It's mostly women, although there — 11 percent are now men, which is up significantly. Those are mostly men going for either their own contraception or for STD testing and screening.

    But they are mostly women, mostly younger women in their teens and 20s, and mostly low-income women. So I think two-thirds of people who access Title X have incomes under the federal poverty line. And something like 88 percent have incomes under 1.5 times the poverty line.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Would the funding level change under these proposals?

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    No, not under these proposed rules.

    There have been other efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. The idea is that they would take the money away from organizations that also provide abortion, i.e., Planned Parenthood, and give it to other facilities.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    So, you said this is a semantic disagreement, but it means…

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Well, the semantic disagreement over whether there's a gag rule.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Over whether there's a gag rule.

    But this is a significant disagreement or change in the eyes of Planned Parenthood and others who support these clinics and their ability to refer women for abortion.

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Oh, absolutely. This is intended to be a large change. It is intended to, you know, kick out not just Planned Parenthood from the federal family planning program, but any other organization that provides both family planning and abortion services or that basically believes in abortion as a legal right.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    You were telling me, Julie, that what happened today was the administration, the White House basically sent a document to the Office of Management and Budget. It isn't — this hasn't actually been enacted yet.

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    That's right.

    Well, it hasn't even been proposed yet. This is going to be — it's going to go through the regulatory process, and the first part is a proposed rule. But before they can put out the proposed rule, they have to send it to the Office of Management and Budget, and that's what happened today.

    We have seen summaries of what we were told is in it, but we haven't actually seen the rule yet.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Does the public, do opponent critics have the ability now to affect whether this happens or not?

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Well, once the rule is published, there will be a comment period. And, yes, Planned Parenthood said they will submit many, many comments, and as will the other side. Everybody will submit comments.

    It could be changed before it's made final. That does happen sometimes. Hard to know whether it would be changed in a way that Planned Parenthood would like.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    But, clearly, the Trump administration is determined to see this through.

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Yes, this is a promise that the president made on the campaign trail. And he's been urged very strongly over the last really couple of months, when Congress was unable to defund Planned Parenthood, he's been urged to go back to this rule that was fought about during the Reagan and Bush I administrations, was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1991.

    So, they presumably have the legal right to do it. And so now they're announcing that they are going to do it. They just haven't quite done it yet.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    All right, so, quickly, Julie, we know that abortion — rates of abortion in this country have been dropping, but the consequence of this, if it goes through, will mainly be to say to low-income women there will not be the information provided in these clinics, if you want to know where to get an abortion.

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    Well, the question is where these women will go for non-abortion services. That's what this pays for. And whether there will be enough places, community health centers, other clinics, that will be able to make up the difference.

  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Julie Rovner with Kaiser Health News, we thank you.

  • JULIE ROVNER:

    You're welcome.

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