Planned Parenthood health centers will leave the Title X family planning program rather than comply with the Trump administration’s domestic “gag rule” restrictions, the organization announced Monday.
Planned Parenthood plans to leave the family planning program before the administration’s August 19 deadline for showing “good faith efforts” to comply with the new restrictions. Planned Parenthood gets around $60 million a year from Title X, according to the New York Times.
The $286 million federal family planning program serves around 4 million people with low incomes across the United States.
While Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives passed a federal spending bill in June that would stop enactment of the domestic gag rule—which bars Title X funds from going to health-care providers who perform or refer patients for abortion services—the provision is unlikely to survive the Republican-controlled Senate or be signed by President Trump.
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Planned Parenthood officials, reproductive health-care advocates, and Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) denounced the rule’s implementation during a Monday press call. Pritzker, who along with the Illinois legislature has agreed to give state funds to family planning clinics so they don’t have to comply with the anti-choice rules, said immediate congressional action is needed.
“We call on Congress to join our fight to protect women,” Pritzker said. “An attack of this magnitude clearly calls for a federal solution.”
Clinics were informed in mid-July that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) would begin to enforce its ban on federal family planning dollars going to health-care providers that refer patients for abortion care, despite an ongoing legal battle against the anti-choice policy. The administration also announced plans to begin enforcing its requirement that clinics financially separate their Title X-funded services from abortion services. A third part of the gag rule requiring clinics to physically separate those services will go into effect in 2020.
Though Planned Parenthood clinics will operate on “emergency funds” for now, said Acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Alexis McGill Johnson, the impact of the health-care organization being forced out of Title X will be felt across the United States. In Utah, Planned Parenthood is the only Title X grantee, and it serves 90 percent of Title X patients in Minnesota, she said. “Wait times for appointments will skyrocket and people will delay or go without care,” McGill Johnson said. “This gag rule could mean that we now will see women driving hundreds of miles just to find a provider who could help them access birth control, like an IUD. That’s why we need Congress to act, and to do so now.”
“We’re committed to keeping our doors open for as long as possible,” McGill Johnson added.
McGill Johnson said “lives depend” on the Senate passing a spending bill that stops the Trump administration from enforcing its restrictions on family planning clinics serving those at or below the poverty line.
“I want our patients to know: While the Trump administration may have given up on you, Planned Parenthood never will,” McGill Johnson said. “Our doors are open today, and our doors will be open tomorrow. The Trump administration’s gag rule will reverberate across the country. This reality will hit hardest people struggling to make ends meet—including those people in rural areas and communities of color.”
Jessica Pinckney, vice president for government affairs at In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda, said Trump’s domestic gag rule would disproportionately affect the health and lives of Black women across the country.
“Every individual should have the right to make informed decisions about their fertility and to plan a family without coercion by the government,” she said on Monday’s press call. “They should be able to plan whether or when to start or add to their families without outside interference, no matter where they seek care and without discrimination.”
Title X funds, Pinckney said, are “crucial to the health of Black women.”
Planned Parenthood officials said the health-care organization would continue monitoring pending lawsuits against the rule, even after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit gave the green light to the anti-choice policy and then refused on Friday to grant Planned Parenthood’s request for emergency judicial relief.
Illinois, Maryland, and Washington state have so far stepped in to fund family planning clinics that will withdraw from Title X. The governors of New York and Hawaii have are exploring how to do the same. Meanwhile, Title X funding is already flowing to some anti-choice clinics.
More than 110 public health organizations came out against the proposed family planning restriction in May 2018, calling the rule “nothing less than an effort to eviscerate access to care and information for people with low incomes and underserved populations.”