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Anti-Choice Activists, Lawmakers Press Trump to End Funding for Planned Parenthood

Ally Boguhn

There's a renewed anti-choice push to reinstate a Reagan-era prohibition on abortion referrals, commonly referred to as the “domestic gag rule.”

Anti-choice activists and their congressional and White House allies are attempting to persuade the Trump administration to restrict federal funds through the Title X National Family Planning Programs from going to health-care providers like Planned Parenthood by reinstating the so-called domestic gag rule.

White House Counselor Kellyanne Conway last week lobbied President Trump to redirect that funding—which helps those with low incomes access family planning and related preventive health care—to federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), according to sources who spoke with Axios.

Conway reportedly supported her argument by showing Trump maps depicting the number of FQHCs and the number of Planned Parenthood clinics, including a map of Maine from the anti-choice Charlotte Lozier Institute. Maine has 172 health centers and just four Planned Parenthood clinics.

According to a 2017 analysis from the Guttmacher Institute, “it is unrealistic to expect [FQHC] sites to serve the millions of women who currently rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for high-quality contraceptive care.” Some FQHCs refuse to provide the full range of contraceptive options, citing religious views, as Rewire.News reported last year.

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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R) has said that “other family planning clinics in Maine, including community health centers, would see a 63 percent increase in their patient load. Some patients would need to drive greater distances to receive care, while others would have to wait longer for an appointment.”

Anti-choice lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate—including Democratic Rep. Dan Lipinski (IL)—sent a letter on April 30 to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar, asking him to issue regulations restricting Title X funds. Both letters encourage HHS to reinstate a Reagan-era prohibition (later rescinded by President Clinton in 1993 in a memorandum and formally in a 2000 rule) on abortion referrals.

That policy is commonly referred to as the “domestic gag rule.” It banned “nondirective counseling on all pregnancy options and referral to abortion providers” by Title X providers, “required physical and financial separation of abortion related activities from Title X project activities,” and “prohibited Title X projects from engaging in activities that encourage, promote, or advocate abortion.”

Such a move could defund organizations like Planned Parenthood that offer Title X services in the same building they offer abortion care. Planned Parenthood serves 41 percent of all patients served through the Title X program, though it makes up 13 percent of the program’s centers.

“This proposal is outrageous, and it is dangerous,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.

“This would prevent millions of people from getting birth control and preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers, and at the same time would force doctors and nurses to lie to their patients across the country,” Laguens said. “It would prohibit any health care provider from sharing information about, or even mentioning the word abortion if they serve Title X patients. This would have devastating consequences, and essentially dismantle the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, which 4 million people rely on.”

A coalition of 85 anti-choice leaders on Tuesday followed congressional Republicans’ lead, sending a letter similarly urging Azar to “separate the Title X network of family planning providers from abortionists” with new regulations.

The letter’s signatories include representatives from state and national organizations, who, like in Conway’s reported pitch to the president, point out that the move would allow Trump to make good on a campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood.

The federal Title X program offers family planning services, giving priority to families with low incomes. Title X centers provide services such as breast and cervical cancer screening, and sexually transmitted disease testing.

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