As legal battles over abortion grow sharper in the United States, the Biden administration on Monday reversed a ban on abortion referrals by family planning clinics, lifting a Trump-era restriction.

The Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said its new regulation will restore the federal family planning program to the way it ran under the Obama administration when clinics were able to refer women seeking abortions to a provider. The goal is to “strengthen and restore” services, Becerra further added, according to Associated Press.

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Clinic advocacy groups welcomed the news and believed that the Biden administration's decision would prompt the return of some 1,300 local institutions that left in protest of Trump's policies, helping to stabilise a long-running programme rocked by the coronavirus outbreak and ideological battles.

"I have heard that almost everywhere in the country people have made the decision that conditions will be good for them to return to the program," Clare Coleman, president of the umbrella group National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in an interview, AP reported. "My sense is that people have been waiting for the rule."

The federal program, known as Title X, makes available more than $250 million a year to clinics to provide birth control and basic health care services mainly to low-income women, many of them from minority communities.

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In 2018, the family planning clinics served about 3.9 million clients, but HHS estimates that number fell by nearly 40% after the Trump policy. The upheaval may have led to more than 180,000 unintended pregnancies, the agency said.

Joe Biden vowed to abolish limitations on family planning clinics during his campaign, however, abortion was not a major topic in the 2020 presidential election. It might become one in the midterm elections in 2022, which will decide who controls Congress.

With inputs from the Associated Press