A supporter of legal abortion raises her fists after being arrested for participating in a demonstration outside the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Monday as the court began a new term. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 4 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Monday reversed a controversial Trump-era rule prohibiting health clinics that receive federal funding from advising patients about ending their pregnancies.
The Department of Health and Human Services said the new rule, which takes effect Nov. 8, ensures that health centers receiving federal funds under the family planning program known as Title X will continue to do so even if they refer patients for abortions.
The new rule replaces the 2019 Title X Rule, reversing the changes to the program made by former President Donald Trump.
"This rule is a step forward for family planning care as it aims to strengthen and restore our nation's Title X program," HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement.
"Our nation's family planning clinics play a critical role in delivering health care, and today more than ever, we are making clear that access to quality family planning care includes accurate information and referrals -- based on a patient's needs and direction."
The rule change comes a month after a divided Supreme Court allowed a new Texas law banning nearly all abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy to go into effect.
Trump's HHS changed the rule in 2019 to ban family planning providers receiving Title X funding from making abortion referrals.
In response, Planned Parenthood, which says it serves 40% of the 4 million Title X patients in the United States, called it a "gag rule" and joined with the American Medical Association in a suit to block its implementation.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco, however, backed the administration in a February 2020 ruling.
Abortion advocates called the ruling "a devastating decision for the millions of low-income patients who rely on the Title X program for comprehensive, quality sexual and reproductive health care nationwide."
There was "a significant decline" in the number of Title X clients served between 2018 and 2020, the Biden administration said, estimating that 63% of the total decrease of 2.4 million patients is attributable to the 2019 Title X Rule.
In a Twitter post, Planned Parenthood called Monday's rule change "HUGE news for providers + millions of patients cut off from sexual/reproductive health services under the Trump administration -- like STD treatment, cancer screenings, pre-pregnancy care, & counseling."
The rule, however, still allows health providers to refuse to counsel or refer patients for abortions if it violates to their own personal beliefs.
Thousands participating in the annual Women's March walk up Constitution Avenue toward the U.S. Supreme Court, past the U.S. Capitol, to show support for abortion and reproductive rights in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. Photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI | License Photo