Biden lifts abortion referral ban on family planning clinics

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Demonstrators rally to to demand continued access to abortion during the March for Reproductive Justice, Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021, in New York. The first Women’s March of the Biden administration sets its sights on the Supreme Court, part of nationwide protests demanding continued access to abortion in a year when conservative lawmakers and judges have put it in jeopardy. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration on Monday reversed a ban on abortion referrals by family planning clinics, lifting a Trump-era restriction as political and legal battles over abortion grow sharper from Texas to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Department of Health and Human Services said its new regulation will restore the federal family planning program to the way it ran under the Obama administration, when clinics were able to refer women seeking abortions to a provider.

Groups representing the clinics said they hope the Biden administration action will lead hundreds of service providers that left in protest over Trump’s policies to return, helping to stabilize a longstanding program that has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic on top of ideological battles.

Known as Title X, the taxpayer-funded program makes available more than $250 million a year to clinics to provide birth control and basic health care services mainly to low-income women. Under former President Donald Trump, clinics were barred from referring patients for abortions, prompting a mass exit by service providers affiliated with Planned Parenthood, as well as several states and other independent organizations.

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