The domestic gag rule on abortion, explained

The Trump administration last year reinstated — and expanded — a rule banning family planning clinics that get aid money from the United States from performing abortions or even discussing abortion with their patients. Often called the “global gag rule,” it’s led to clinic closures and reductions in crucial services around the world. And now it might be coming to the United States.

The White House is reportedly considering a domestic gag rule that would essentially apply the restrictions of the global rule to providers that receive federal Title X funds, which help low-income patients get services like contraceptive counseling and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Such a rule would force Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health providers to either stop discussing abortions with their patients or stop receiving Title X money.

The global gag rule, also called the Mexico City policy, has been reinstated by every Republican president since Ronald Reagan established it in 1984, but a domestic gag rule was only in effect for one month, in 1992. But anti-abortion groups and members of Congress have been pushing the White House to issue its own version, which some believe could come this month.

It’s not yet clear exactly what form a domestic gag rule from the Trump administration would take. The previous attempt at one was immediately challenged in court. But reproductive health advocates say the consequences of such a move could be dire — forcing doctors to lie to patients, undermining medical ethics, and leaving low-income Americans without necessary health care. On May 14, over forty senators, including Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), sent a letter to the Department of Health and Human Serviceswarning of the potentially disastrous impact of a domestic gag rule; more than a hundred members of the House sent a similar letter.

A domestic gag rule would also be part of a larger pattern in the Trump administration, which has moved repeatedly over the past year and a half to restrict Americans’ access to contraceptionabortion, and accurate information about their health.

The Reagan administration issued a domestic gag rule in 1988, but it was immediately challenged in court by reproductive health groups. The case ultimately made it to the Supreme Court, which decided in 1991 that the rule could go into effect. It took effect briefly but was again blocked by a court challenge, and when President Clinton took office in 1993, he suspended the rule. That was the end of it. until now.

Anti-abortion advocates have long been pushing the Trump administration to implement a domestic version of the global gag rule. In April, Republican Reps. Ron Estes (KS), Vicky Hartzler (MO), and Chris Smith (NJ) circulated a letter in the House asking the Department of Health and Human Services to implement such a rule, according to the Hill. “The Title X Family Planning Program is in dire need of review and updated regulations that ensure program integrity with respect to elective abortion,” the letter said.

On May 1, leaders of a variety of anti-abortion groups, including the Susan B. Anthony List and the Family Research Council, sent a similar letter to HHS. “For far too long the Title X Family Planning Program has been integrated with abortion centers,” that letter stated. “It is time to act swiftly to disentangle abortion centers from the Title X network.”

The Trump administration appears to be listening. In April, a White House aide told Modern Healthcare that a new rule on Title X would be coming in early May. And according to Axios, Kellyanne Conway met with Trump in late April to urge him to cut off Title X funding to Planned Parenthood.

Read the full story at Vox