May 22, 2018
HHS Announces Proposed Update to Title X Family Planning Grant Program
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is issuing a proposal to update the regulations governing the Title X family planning program, which focuses on serving low-income Americans. The proposed update to the regulations ensures compliance with statutory program integrity provisions governing the program and, in particular, the statutory prohibition on funding “programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” (42 U.S.C. § 300a-6) The proposed update to the regulations, which were last revised 18 years ago, would also make notable improvements designed to increase the number of patients served and improve their quality of care.
The Title X program serves approximately 4 million people annually, and the proposed update seeks to ensure a holistic and health-centered approach; safeguarding the short and long-term family planning needs of more women, men, and adolescents in need of services. It is of utmost importance that individuals in low-income communities receive comprehensive family planning services, and care that promotes the welfare of adults and youth. It is equally important that, as stewards of taxpayer funds, the Department assures that the program operates according to statutory requirements.
Key elements of the proposed update include:
- Requiring clear financial and physical separation between Title X funded projects and programs or facilities where abortion is a method of family planning.
- This separation will ensure adherence to statutory restrictions and provide clarity about permissible and impermissible activities for Title X projects.
- Improving program transparency by requiring more complete reporting by grantees about subrecipients and other program partners and their Title X funded activities, to ensure quality provision of family planning services and compliance with statutory and regulatory requirements.
- Protecting Title X health providers so that they are not required to choose between the health of their patients and their own consciences, by eliminating the current requirement that they provide abortion counseling and referral. The proposal would not bar non-directive counseling on abortion, but would prohibit referral for abortion as a method of family planning.
- Protecting women and children who have experienced child abuse, child molestation, incest, sexual abuse, rape, intimate partner violence, and trafficking by:
- Requiring annual training for staff at Title X clinics and ensuring they have a site-specific protocol in place to protect victims.
- Requiring compliance with State and local laws on reporting or notification of these crimes.
- Providing counseling to minors on how to resist attempts to coerce them into sexual activities.
- Requiring clinics to encourage meaningful parent/child communication and, as required by federal law, encourage family participation in a minor’s decision to seek family planning services, giving practical ways to begin – and maintain – such communication.
- Maintaining the patient/doctor confidential relationship within the statutory requirements.
- Permitting individuals to qualify for Title X services if they are unable to obtain employer-sponsored insurance coverage for certain contraceptive services due to their employer’s religious beliefs or moral convictions.
- Providing high quality comprehensive family planning services to those currently unserved, while ensuring the integrity of the Title X program, consistent with statutory requirements.
The proposed update can be found here: https://www.hhs.gov/opa/title-x-family-planning/about-title-x-grants/statutes-and-regulations/index.html