WASHINGTON -- A family planning group is asking a judge to halt what it says is a conflict between a law that requires healthcare providers to inform women about abortions and a new rule passed by Congress.
The conflict, according to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, could cost states, hospitals, clinics, and doctors billions of dollars in federal grants.
Under Title X of the Public Health Service Act authorizing the largest federally-funded family planning program, the Department of Health and Human Services makes grants to states, localities, clinics, and hospitals for family planning services.
Aimed primarily at low-income women, the money is granted only if the receiver provides certain services, including informing women about abortion and referring them to a provider upon request.
But a provision in a $388 billion spending bill passed by Congress last month and signed last week by President Bush would block any of the measure's money from going to federal, state, or local agencies that act against providers and insurers that refuse to provide abortions, make abortion referrals, or cover them.
Representative Dave Weldon, Republican of Florida, a doctor who inserted the provision, has said the measure will prevent healthcare providers who oppose abortion from being forced to assist in ending pregnancies. He and other supporters say it is a variation on a decades-old prohibition on spending federal money on most abortions.
But the family planning association, which represents some 4,000 reproductive healthcare clinics and planned to file the motion yesterday, said the law signed Dec. 8 by Bush is a backdoor way of restricting Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing the procedure.
The Weldon provision creates a no-win choice for states, local governments, and healthcare providers dependent on billions of federal dollars, the organization said.