It is not a coincidence that Trump's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) formally announced these changes on the same day that Trump participated in a photo-op with the so-called March for Life in Washington.
The Department's Office of Civil Rights has announced that it's creating a whole new division whose mission will be to protect health care providers that refuse to perform abortions, provide care to LGBTQ patients, or perform other procedures based on moral objections. Let's call it the Anti-Civil Rights Office.
Additionally, HHS has rescinded Obama-era guidelines advising states against trying to defund Planned Parenthood.
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. health officials on Friday said they were revoking legal guidance issued by the Obama Administration that had sought to discourage states from trying to defund organizations that provide abortion services, such as Planned Parenthood. [...]
HHS will issue a letter on Friday to state Medicaid offices that will rescind the Obama Administration’s 2016 guidance, which was issued after states including Indiana had tried to defund abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.
The guidance “restricted states’ ability to take certain actions against family-planning providers that offer abortion services,” HHS said in a statement.
It's far from clear exactly what kind of behavior the new Anti-Civil Rights Office will enable, or if any of it will hold up in court, but I'm fairly sure the latter will not.
States that attempted to defund Planned Parenthood after the fake body parts videos were released in 2015 did not lose in court because of memos or guidance from the Obama administration. In each case, the states' actions were ruled unconstitutional because they violated the rights of patients to chose their own health care provider.
Federal law already prohibits Medicaid from funding abortions and the overwhelming majority of Planned Parenthood clinics do not perform abortions. States had effectively singled out Planned Parenthood for collective punishment with no legal or substantive basis for doing so.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said the move encourages states to try to block access to care at Planned Parenthood.
“The law is clear, it is illegal to bar women from seeking care at Planned Parenthood. Longstanding protections within Medicaid safeguard every person’s right to access care at their qualified provider of choice,” Laguens said in a statement.
This is correct.
We'll have to keep a close eye on the Anti-Civil Rights Office at HHS, but rescinding the Obama-era guidelines looks like nothing more than a political stunt timed to accompany Trump's photo-op at the March for Life.
You may have noticed that Republicans in Congress have given up on defunding Planned Parenthood even though they control both chambers. The fact is Planned Parenthood polls significantly better than Congress does and even Republicans have constituents who depend on Planned Parenthood.
It's a lot easier to attack something when a Democrat is in the White House to veto it for you.