The Trump administration said Friday that it would bar taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions, a move certain to be challenged in court by abortion rights supporters.
The final rule released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department pleased religious conservatives, a key building block of President Donald Trump's political base.
The administration plan also would prohibit federally funded family planning clinics from being housed in the same location as abortion providers.
Planned Parenthood has said the administration appears to be targeting them, and calls the policy a "gag rule."
The regulation was published Friday on an HHS website . It's not official until it appears in the Federal Register and the department said there could be "minor editorial changes." A department official confirmed it was the final version.
Known as Title X, the family-planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates, which serve about 1.6 million women. The grant program costs taxpayers about $260 million annually.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.
Abortion opponents praised the administration's move.
"We are celebrating the newly finalized Title X rules that will redirect some taxpayer resources away from abortion vendors," Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement. Although federal family planning funds by law cannot be used to pay for abortions, religious conservatives have long argued that the program indirectly subsidizes Planned Parenthood.
A group representing family planning clinics decried the administration's decision.
"This rule intentionally strikes at the heart of the patient-provider relationship, inserting political ideology into a family planning visit, which will frustrate and ultimately discourage patients from seeking the health care they need," Clare Coleman, head of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement.