President Trump in his Tuesday address to the anti-choice Susan B. Anthony List’s annual gala at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., lauded his administration for proposing a rule aimed at banning domestic family planning funding from going to health providers that provide separately-funded abortion care.
Though the administration released a statement, and officials last week gave some details about the proposed rule to the media, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officially announced that it had proposed the policy hours before the president joined the anti-choice event on Tuesday. Trump at the gala characterized the move as a “new rule to prohibit Title X funding from going to any clinic that performs abortions,” and justified it by falsely claiming that federal funds were going to abortion care.
The proposed restriction, referred to by health and human rights advocates as the “domestic gag rule,” would require health service providers receiving Title X funding to physically separate their abortion services from their program-funded services, eliminate a requirement that providers give counseling and referrals for all pregnancy options to their patients, and bar clinics that receive the funding from making abortion referrals.
Doing so would be a step toward defunding Planned Parenthood, which serves roughly 40 percent of the 4 million mostly low-income people who utilize the Title X program to obtain family planning-related services such as contraceptive counseling, breast and cervical cancer screening, and sexually transmitted infections testing.
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Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America called the proposed rules “one of the largest-scale and most dangerous attacks we’ve seen on women’s rights and reproductive health care in this country,” in a Tuesday statement. “This policy is straight out of The Handmaid’s Tale,” she said.
Defunding Planned Parenthood was a key promise made by Trump on the 2016 campaign trail. It was included in a set of policies outlined in a September 2016 letter from the campaign to anti-choice advocates in an attempt at winning over abortion rights foes who had been skeptical of the then-presidential contender’s vacillating views on the issue.
During his remarks, Trump noted that the midterm elections are critical to anti-choice federal lawmakers hoping to ram through their agenda in the U.S. Congress. “If Democrats gain power, they will try to reverse these incredible gains,” said Trump. “And we all know what a Democratic majority would mean, especially for the people in this room, on the Supreme Court,” he later added.
Trump’s appearance at the event comes after the Susan B. Anthony List promoted room blocks at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C., and fundraised with a contest in which the prize was a stay in the hotel during the gala, as media watchdog group Media Matters for America first reported.
Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser was initially reluctant to get behind Trump in 2016. She had been one of ten activists who signed a letter encouraging voters to “support anyone but Donald Trump” in the race, arguing that he couldn’t be trusted to “defend both unborn children and the dignity of women.” But as Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton faced off, Dannenfelser began to sing another tune. She came to lead Trump’s “Pro-Life Coalition,” which, as Rewire.News reported, was meant to provide the Republican nominee with guidance on best strategies to restrict abortion rights.
Dannenfelser would come to be a close ally of the Trump administration. She was present and photographed by the president’s side as he signed legislation allowing states to block funding to Planned Parenthood in April 2017, and again during meetings at the White House, including a September 25 convening of conservative “grassroots leaders.”
Vice President Mike Pence spoke at another event for the Susan B. Anthony List in late February, telling the crowd that Dannenfelser was “one of the great pro-life leaders in the history of this movement” and suggesting the United States would see an end to legal abortion “in our time.”
White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway also has ties to the anti-choice group. In addition to penning letters with Dannenfelser opposing abortion rights, financial disclosure forms released in spring 2017 revealed that Conway had acted as a paid consultant to Susan B. Anthony List. She was awarded the group’s “2018 Distinguished Leader Award” during Tuesday night’s gala.