In the debate over defunding Planned Parenthood, supporters of legalized abortion and reporters point out again and again that federal law prohibits direct taxpayer funding of abortion.
While that's technically true (at least until Obamacare goes into full effect), the law does nothing to prevent tax dollars from subsidizing abortionists.
The lax regulation that was issued by the Clinton administration and still governs Title X, the federal government's contraception program, explicitly allows Title X programs and abortion clinics to share the same facilities and even the same staff.
"Separation of Title X from abortion activities does not require separate grantees or even a separate health facility," according to the regulation.
Certain kinds of shared facilities are permissible, so long as it is possible to distinguish between the Title X supported activities and non-Title X abortion-related activities: (a) A common waiting room is permissible, as long as the costs properly pro-rated; (b) common staff is permissible, so long as salaries are properly allocated and all abortion related activities of the staff members are performed in a program which is entirely separate from the Title X project; (c) a hospital offering abortions for family planning purposes and also housing a Title X project is permissible, as long as the abortion activities are sufficiently separate from the Title X project; and (d) maintenance of a single file system for abortion and family planning patients is permissible, so long as costs are properly allocated.
The regulation claims that "separate bookkeeping entries alone will not satisfy the spirit of the law," and it also states: "A grantee may demonstrate that prohibited abortion-related activities are not part of the Title X project by various means, including counseling and service protocols, intake and referral procedures, material review procedures, and other administrative procedures."
What exactly are these "protocols" and "procedures" that separate "abortion activities" from a Title X project? A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services hasn't been able to give me any details yet.
But it seems safe to say that this is all a bunch of smoke and mirrors meant to get around the original statutory language: "None of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning." Under the Clinton regulation, there's no reason why a doctor who performs abortions half of the day couldn't be paid the other half of the day for prescribing contraception under Title X.
Update: Here's a statement from HHS spokeswoman Tara Broido:
Each Title X project supported under a grant must: (1) Provide a broad range of acceptable and effective medically approved family planning methods and services (2) Provide services without subjecting individuals to any coercion to accept services or to employ or not to employ any particular methods of family planning. Acceptance of services must be solely on a voluntary basis and may not be made a prerequisite to eligibility for, or receipt of, any other services, assistance from or participation in any other program of the applicant.
Title X is a grant program, not a reimbursement program. A grantee outlines the scope of their project in their application, and if successful, they receive an award to implement the project. If a project includes staff to provide the approved family planning methods and services, then those staff salaries and other related costs would be considered an allowable expense. Other allowable expenses could include project related equipment and supplies directly benefiting the grant supported activity.