Illinois to reject federal grant funds to avoid new 'gag rule' on abortion referrals

Lisa Schencker, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Business News

Illinois is rejecting millions of dollars in federal funds so dozens of family planning clinics in the state don't have to follow new restrictions on abortion referrals.

The Trump administration announced Monday that it immediately would start enforcing new rules surrounding the Title X family planning program, including prohibiting clinics that accept the money from helping women find doctors who will perform abortions.

The regulations also mandate that if clinics perform abortions, those must be financially separate from services supported by the grant dollars. Also, clinics that accept the money no longer will be required to discuss abortion as an option when counseling pregnant patients.

The state's announcement came two days after Planned Parenthood of Illinois said it would no longer accept the federal funds.

Proponents of the new regulations say they will ensure that doctors who oppose abortions don't have to help patients get them, and that taxpayer dollars don't support abortion, even indirectly. Federal law has long prohibited federal dollars from being used to pay for abortions, except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is in danger.

Opponents, meanwhile, argue that the new rules could make it more difficult for low-income women to access services supported by the money, such as birth control, testing for sexually transmitted disease and cancer screenings. Critics, such as the Chicago-based American Medical Association, say it impedes doctors' ability to provide complete information to patients.


"President Trump's gag rule undermines women's health care and threatens the providers that millions of women and girls rely on, and we will not let that stand in the state of Illinois," Gov. J.B. Pritzker said in a Thursday news release. "While I'm committed to bringing as many federal dollars to the state as possible, I refuse to sacrifice our values and allow vital care to lapse."

To cover the loss of the funding, the Illinois Department of Public Health will provide $2.4 million to the 28 organizations that had been receiving the federal funds through the state, if the rules remain in place through the end of the fiscal year. The department had been slated to receive a total of $4 million between April 2019 and April 2022.

The funds will be drawn from the Department of Public Health's appropriation for fiscal year 2020, Pritzker spokesman Jordan Abudayyeh said in an email.

The state health department is one of three Illinois recipients of Title X funding.


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