From the Department of Health & Human Services:
On the occasion of the 2019 March for Life, HHS Secretary Alex Azar released the following statement regarding the Trump administration’s accomplishments in protecting human life:
“Promoting the dignity of human life from conception to natural death is one of the very top priorities of President Trump’s administration. At HHS, through our work in healthcare, human services, public health, and biomedical science, we are committed to this effort. This means not just protecting human life in the administration of our programs, but also respecting the conscience rights of those who participate in HHS-funded programs. Under President Trump, HHS will continue to advance science and improve the health of Americans while protecting our most fundamental freedoms: the right to life and the right of conscience.”
- In February 2018, HHS updated its five-year Strategic Plan for 2018-2022, which highlights that a core component of HHS’s mission is the dedication to protecting the life of all Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.
Title X Reforms
- New Title X Proposed Regulation: In June 2018, HHS proposed a new Title X regulation that would enforce statutory program integrity provisions by no longer permitting Title X-funded family planning services at the same location where abortion is provided. HHS looks forward to issuing the final rule promptly.
- Broadening Participation in Title X: In its most recent Title X grant awards, HHS funded 12 organizations that were not current Title X grantees, including state health departments, a faith-based organization, and several community health centers.
- Enforcing Weldon & Coats-Snowe Amendments: This week, the HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) notified the State of California that its law requiring pro-life pregnancy resource centers to refer clients for abortions, by posting notices about free or low-cost family planning services and abortion, violated the Weldon and Coats-Snowe Amendments. This is the first time that any state has been found in violation of these laws, reflecting HHS’s heightened commitment to enforcing conscience protection statutes.
- New Division to Protect Conscience and Religious Freedom: In January 2018, OCR launched a new Conscience and Religious Freedom Division, the first time a federal office for civil rights has established a separate division dedicated to ensuring compliance with and enforcement of laws that protect conscience and free exercise of religion in healthcare and human services.
- Protecting Conscience in Health Insurance: In November 2018, HHS and the Departments of Labor and of the Treasury issued two final rules to provide regulatory relief to American employers, including organizations like the Little Sisters of the Poor, that have religious or moral objections to providing coverage for contraceptives, including those they view as abortifacient, in their health insurance plans. The departments are vigorously defending the final rules.
- New Proposed Conscience Regulation: HHS is in the process of finalizing a rule to strengthen enforcement procedures for 25 health-related federal conscience and religious freedom laws and enforce those laws as vigorously as other civil rights laws enforced by OCR. The proposed rule was issued in January 2018.
The Affordable Care Act and Abortion
- Separate Billing for Abortion Coverage: In November 2018, HHS issued a proposed rule to require issuers of Qualified Health Plans—individual insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA)—to bill and send separate invoices for insurance coverage of non-Hyde abortions.
- Ensuring Access to Policies without Abortion Coverage: This week, HHS issued a proposed rule to require that insurance companies that offer ACA plans covering abortions of pregnancies that do not threaten the life of the mother or result from rape or incest must also offer at least one identical plan in the same geographic area that does not cover these abortions. (The rule would not apply in states with abortion coverage mandates.)
- Hardship Exemption: In April 2018, CMS issued guidance to allow individuals to claim a hardship exemption from the individual mandate if all affordable plans offered through the federal exchanges in an individual’s area included abortion coverage, contrary to the individual’s beliefs.
Medicaid and Abortion
- Rescinded Guidance that Limited States’ Ability to Take Action Against Abortion Providers:In January 2018, CMS rescinded April 2016 guidance that curtailed states’ ability to set reasonable standards for determining which providers can participate in their Medicaid programs.
International Stance on Life
- Changing the U.S. Message: At international forums—such as the United Nations, the World Health Organization, and the Pan American Health Organization—HHS continues to fight the concept of abortion as a fundamental human right, as evidenced by statements, votes called, amendments offered, and resolutions opposed. The Trump administration does not recognize abortion as a method of family planning and refuses to fund abortion in global health assistance.
- Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance: HHS worked with the Department of State to implement President Trump’s restored and expanded Mexico City Policy, now known as “Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance,” to ensure that, consistent with applicable law, global health assistance administered by HHS is not provided to foreign non-governmental organizations that provide or promote abortion as a method of family planning.