President Donald Trump and his administration have received pushback from several Democratic state leaders, including Gov. Phil Murphy, on a move to restrict Title X-funded health providers from referring patients for abortion.

Murphy and 13 other Democratic governors penned a joint letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar expressing their disagreement with proposed changes to Title X, the only federal grant program dedicated solely to supporting family planning and related preventive health care.

The Health and Human Services Department proposed new regulations for the Title X program last month that would change what providers and organizations could and could not do if they receive federal funding.

The regulations would no longer require health providers to give abortion counseling and referral — in fact, it would “prohibit referral for abortion as a method of family planning.”

An exception would be for women who have already decided on abortion.

The proposal also would require a clear financial and physical separation between Title X-funded programs and facilities where abortions are performed. This separation would “ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions,” according to a May 18 statement from the White House.

Members of anti-abortion organizations such as New Jersey Right to Life have championed stricter guidelines for family planning funding, especially concerning organizations such as Planned Parenthood, that provide health education, preventive care, treatment and abortions.

The 1976 Hyde Amendment already prevents federal dollars from being used for abortion services, but does not prohibit funding from going to organizations for other services.

A similar rule to the current proposal was made in 1988 under the President Ronald Reagan’s administration, which created a so-called “gag-rule” that prohibited funded providers from using any kind of mention of abortion.

The rule was caught up in court battles that lasted several years until the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the rule, but by the time it was set to go into effect, President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, was elected and the rule was eliminated.

Murphy and other governors stated in their letter to Azar they are concerned with the Trump administration’s plan to “undermine women’s health” and that the new proposal would “upend decades of bipartisan cooperation, taking away women’s health care through trusted medical providers like Planned Parenthood.”

The governors wrote if the rule is adopted, they would consider legal action to block it from going into effect.

Contact: 609-272-7022 Twitter @ACPressNLeonard

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