republished below in full unedited for informational, educational, and research purposes:
 WASHINGTON — The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has 
rescinded an Obama-era rule that banned states from excluding the abortion 
giant Planned Parenthood from their Medicaid program.

“HHS’ Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is issuing
new guidance to state Medicaid directors restoring state flexibility to
decide program standards. The letter issued today rescinds 2016 guidance
that specifically restricted states’ ability to take certain actions
against family-planning providers that offer abortion services,” HHS
outlined in a press release on Friday.

As previously reported,
in September 2016, the HHS issued a notice of proposed rulemaking,
advising that intended to amend the Code of Federal Regulations to read,
“No recipient making sub-awards for the provision of services as part of
its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for
reasons unrelated to its ability to provide services effectively.”

Title X was enacted in 1970 under the Public Health Service Act and
authorizes the Office of Population Affairs to oversee the disbursement
of federal funds for the purpose of assisting organizations that offer
“family planning” services. States distribute the capital to
reproductive and women’s health organizations as they see fit.

In recent years, a number of states have sought to defund the
abortion giant Planned Parenthood after granting the organization funds
for years, stating that they do not wish to assist groups that provide
abortion services, even if the funds will not be directly used for

But the Obama administration contended that stripping abortion
facilities of funding results in undesired births, and that such
locations are important because they provide contraceptives.

“Reducing access to Title X services has many adverse effects. Title X
services have a dramatic effect on the number of unintended pregnancies
and births in the United States,” HHS said at the time. “For example,
services provided by Title X-funded sites helped prevent an estimated 1
million unintended pregnancies in 2010 which would have resulted in an
estimated 501,000 unplanned births.”

It finalized the rule in December 2016.

Planned Parenthood decried this week’s move by the Trump
administration to restore the status quo prior to what it was before the
Obama-era prohibition.

“The law is clear: it is illegal to bar women from seeking care at
Planned Parenthood. Long-standing protections within Medicaid safeguard
every person’s right to access care at their qualified provider of
choice,” Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president for the Planned
Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement.

Religious freedom advocacy groups, however, applauded the move as being commendable.

“Medicaid dollars should go to local community health centers serving
women—not the scandal-ridden billion-dollar abortion industry. In
contrast to the Obama administration’s policy designed to reward the Big
Abortion lobby, this rule empowers state legislatures to allocate
Medicaid funding for women’s health,” Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF)
legal counsel Elissa Graves said in a statement.

HHS also explained that its Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is
similarly rolling out a proposed rule to enforce 25 conscience
protections already enshrined in law, which pertain to medical
professionals who object to participating in abortions, sterilizations
or physician-assisted suicide.

“America’s doctors and nurses are dedicated to saving lives and
should not be bullied out of the practice of medicine simply because
they object to performing abortions against their conscience,” OCR
Director Roger Severino said in a statement. “Conscience protection is a
civil right guaranteed by laws that too often haven’t been enforced.”

“Today’s proposed rule will provide our new Conscience and Religious
Freedom Division with enforcement tools that will make sure our
conscience laws are not empty words on paper, but guarantees of justice
to victims of unlawful discrimination,” he remarked.

As previously reported,
HHS likewise announced on Thursday that it is creating a new OCR
division focused on protecting the right of conscience and religious

“The Conscience and Religious Freedom Division has been established
to restore federal enforcement of our nation’s laws that protect the
fundamental and unalienable rights of conscience and religious freedom,”
the department said in a statement.