Biden Changes To Abortion Funding Regulation Ignored Public Comment Requirements

The Biden White House rushed through a significant regulatory change that works to benefit Planned Parenthood and abortion activism, as reported by Mollie Hemingway at The Federalist.

Even after receiving sharp criticism for reducing public comments to fewer than the usual 30 days and not responding to the comments submitted, the administration published a final rule while ignoring objections from legal experts about the rule and the process being used.

The White House had the changes approved by Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, its administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), on September 13. That approval was ordered two days before a scheduled public meeting between a policy analyst with the Ethics & Public Policy Center and officials with the Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of Management and Budget. 

The meeting had been scheduled to address substantial legal problems with the proposed rule. Hemingway reports that other groups who requested an opportunity to address concerns were not allowed even to be scheduled for meetings.

The approval of the rule by the CMS administrator before public comments had been addressed according to law indicates that the administration did not consider the public objections raised or could have been raised if proper time requirements had been observed.

The new regulation concerns the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. The regulation initially required that abortion procedures be subject to separate billing procedures. Pro-Life Democrat lawmakers were informed that the provision would ensure that federal funds were not used to pay for abortions. Without the provision, at least some of those pro-life Democrats would likely not have voted for the Obamacare bill.

The Obama administration ignored the statute’s plain language to obscure billing processes, making it difficult to know if insurers were using federal funding to pay for abortions. The Trump administration updated the regulation governing that part of Obamacare to ensure that the law was complied with.

The Biden administration then proposed on July 1 that the Trump regulation be eliminated and replaced. Such a broad change would generally require months to ensure adequate public comments, followed by a review period wherein the government evaluates comments and makes proper responses. The Biden White House decided only to allow 28 days for public comments.

The federal Administrative Procedure Act (APA) provides that public comment periods of less than 30 days are not advisable unless a rule involves a national security crisis. The APA also provides that federal agencies must read and respond to public comments in the language adopting any final administrative rule.

The Biden White House took less than two weeks to consider the comments that were received. Some comments consisted of many pages of complex legal arguments and supporting documents and legal authorities. The Biden final rule as adopted contained no changes from the initial draft rule published on July 1.