Alongside the creation of a conscience and religious freedom division, the Department of Health and Human Services is doing away with Obama-era guidance meant to protect organizations like Planned Parenthood from being attacked by conservative states.
U.S. health officials are 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.
The move echoes concerns that led to the new division focusing on conscience and religious objections, which the Trump administration said was necessary following years of employees being forced by the federal government to violate their beliefs.
The guidance “restricted states’ ability to take certain actions against family-planning providers that offer abortion services,” HHS said in a statement.
HHS will issue a letter on Friday to state Medicaid offices rescinding 2016 guidance that the Obama administration gave after states including Indiana had tried to defund abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood.
The change will likely be felt immediately in states that were attempting to defund Planned Parenthood before the Obama administration stepped in.
“You are watching a struggle over abortion politics,” said Robin Wilson, a professor at University of Illinois College of Law. “In a sense you’re allowing state Medicaid regulators, through regulation, to reopen a whole can of worms around women’s health.”