Health Law & Business News

Trump Poised to Act on Abortion Facility Funding, E-Mails Show (1)

Feb. 15, 2019, 6:20 PMUpdated: Feb. 15, 2019, 6:40 PM

Groups interested in meeting with regulators about the Trump administration’s pending abortion regulation are being advised meetings must take place by Feb. 15, according to emails obtained by Bloomberg Law.

It’s a sign the rule—which as proposed would pull federal family planning funding from health-care facilities that offer abortion services—will be released as soon as the evening of Feb. 15 or next week, according to the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, which has been following the rule.

There already has been concern by both lawmakers, abortion groups, and at least one former government official that the rule was rushed through the regulatory process.

The proposal “was rushed through too quickly,” Sally Katzen, who was a part of the Office of Management and Budget during the Clinton administration, told Bloomberg Law. “There’s been several instances where people have timely requested a meeting and have been told that the review was already completed. That shouldn’t be happening.”

Katzen said lawmakers need to look into the way the review was handled.

“I would be surprised and disappointed if the House committees do not inquire about the conduct of the regulatory process, including the conduct of OIRA in this administration,” she said.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is an agency within OMB that oversees and reviews agency regulatory proposals.

The OMB didn’t respond to a request for comment or answer question about which groups were able to meet with the agency. The agency is taking meetings until 4 p.m. Feb. 15, according to the NFPRHA.

The NFPRHA says The Guttmacher Institute, which bills itself as a research and policy organization “committed to advancing sexual and reproductive health and rights,” is among the groups that got a meeting with the OMB. The institute didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A Planned Parenthood spokesperson told Bloomberg Law “a Planned Parenthood patient met with OMB this week to express concerns about the harmful impact of the Title X gag rule.”

The National Abortion Federation sent the OMB an email Feb. 7 asking for a meeting about the rule. On Feb. 12, the group sent a follow-up email requesting a meeting. An OMB official replied that “all meetings and calls must take place by Friday.” The NAF didn’t provide a comment Feb. 15.

A draft of the proposed rule was first listed as under review on May 18. Six days later, the OMB said the review was complete. The final version of the rule was marked as under review by the OMB on Feb. 7. It’s not clear whether the final rule will have any significant differences from the proposed rule.

“OIRA career staff are apolitical, and their job is to hold agencies accountable to the rulemaking process,” Nathan Frey, an OMB employee from 2007 to 2015, told Bloomberg Law. “So you can assume they’re going to do everything they can to compel the agency to follow the rules. And if that doesn’t happen, it probably means they were overruled by someone else.”

(Updated to include Planned Parenthood's comments in 10th paragraph.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jacquie Lee in Washington at jlee1@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Fawn Johnson at fjohnson@bloomberglaw.com; Nora Macaluso at nmacaluso@bloomberglaw.com

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