EPPC Scholar Meets with Federal Officials to Share Concerns with Indian Health Service’s Abortion Funding Rule 

Published April 18, 2024


On Thursday, April 18, 2024, EPPC scholar Natalie Dodson met with government officials in the Executive Office of the President (EOP) to share concerns with the Health and Human Service Indian Health Service’s (IHS) removal of regulations limiting the use of IHS funds for abortion, which is expected to be finalized soon.  

Current regulations prevent Indian Health Service funds from paying for abortion except to save the life of the mother and include an applicability clause, definitions, an explanation and permission for ectopic pregnancy treatment, recordkeeping requirements, and confidentiality requirements. IHS proposed removing these regulations in their entirety.  

As Dodson explained, 

IHS proposed to remove 42 CFR sections 136.51 through 136.57 because these regulations are allegedly outdated. However, to justify the removal of all these regulations, IHS pointed to the variation between the text of 42 C.F.R. § 136.54 and the text of the Hyde Amendment. However, the Hyde Amendment does not mandate IHS to fund abortion, necessitating eliminating section § 136.54, much less the removal of all the regulations, making the IHS’s proposal arbitrary and capricious. IHS failed to adequately consider alternatives to its proposal, failed to demonstrate why it is necessary to remove all of the regulations if the goal is to align the regulatory text with the law, and failed to address federalism concerns associated with preempting state abortion laws. Lastly, IHS must consider the economic implications associated with removing these regulations. 

She urged the government officials to consider alternatives to the proposed rulemaking, including not removing any of the regulations, “updating the text of 42 C.F.R. § 136.54 to reflect the current exceptions in the Hyde Amendment,” and “incorporating a reference to the Hyde Amendment in 42 C.F.R. § 136.54.” 

Following the meeting, Dodson, along with EPPC scholar Eric Kniffin, submitted written comments to EOP’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, available here (PDF).

Natalie Dodson is a Policy Analyst at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, where she works on a range of initiatives focusing on sexuality, gender ideology, religious liberty, health care rights of conscience, abortion, and nondiscrimination in EPPC’s HHS Accountability Project.

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