The Trump Administration is expected to announce new guidelines for Title X, either today or early next week, that will make it so that any family planning clinic that provides abortion care or refers patients to abortion cannot receive federal funding. By preventing doctors from even referring or suggesting qualified abortion specialists, the rule will effectively force them to withhold helpful medical information from women.
The new guidelines will reportedly call for a “bright line of physical as well as financial separation” between Title X services and organizations that perform or refer for abortion care. This move takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood, which makes up only 13 percent of Title X centers, but serves 41 percent of Title X’s four million patients. The organization currently receives between $50 and $60 million in Title X funding, which goes towards services like cancer screenings, Pap tests, fertility services, birth control access, pregnancy testing and support, and STI testing and treatment.
An administration official told the Washington Post that the changes “reflect the view that taxpayer funds should not be used to fund abortion.” But Title X funding is already prohibited from being used for abortion services under the Hyde Amendment, rendering this argument somewhat nonsensical.
The Trump administration has not been covert about their goal of defunding Planned Parenthood. Last year, they became the first administration to single out a health care provider in a budget, when they proposed that Planned Parenthood be barred from receiving any federal funding. And this isn’t the first time those close to the president have proposed giving Planned Parenthood an ultimatum on providing abortion services: Former Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards wrote in her memoir that Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner once “offered her a deal for her organization: Stop providing abortions in exchange for receiving an increase in federal money,” according to the New York Times.
According to reproductive health advocates, the new rule will have devastating effects far beyond Planned Parenthood. If the organization were to lose Title X funding community health centers will have to absorb nearly two million patients who previously received care at Planned Parenthood.
“The idea that the government should instruct doctors about what they can or cannot say to their patients—a relationship Americans hold sacred—should send shivers down the spine of everyone who ever wanted to know the facts and the truth about their own healthcare,” said NARAL Pro-Choice America president Ilyse Hogue in a statement.
Dr. Jenn Conti, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, called the rule “unconscionable,” adding, “It undermines medical ethics by forcing health care professionals to withhold accurate and timely medical information from patients. It is critical to our nation’s health care safety net that nonprofit clinics like Planned Parenthood participate in Title X. My colleagues and I demand that the Trump administration stop trying to prevent millions of patients from getting the care they need.”
"[The rule] should send shivers down the spine of everyone who ever wanted to know the facts and the truth about their own healthcare.”
Once the rule is officially announced and reviewed by the US Department of Health & Human Services, the HHS will open a period of public comment, which will last 30 to 60 days before completing a final review. In that time, reproductive health organizations are hoping that the HHS realizes the scope of the damage that this rule would inflict on millions of American women.
“Planned Parenthood believes everyone should have the right to all of the information they might need about their healthcare including information about safe, legal, constitutionally protected abortion,” said a Planned Parenthood representative in a press call this morning. “Under this rule, they won’t be able to get it.”