Planned Parenthood is on its way out of the only federal program dedicated to funding family planning over new rules required by the Trump administration. The massive reproductive health organization stands to lose tens of millions of dollars.
Planned Parenthood told a federal court on Wednesday that it will officially leave the program if the changes, which bars grant recipients from making referrals for abortions, are allowed to move forward.
In early July, the Trump administration announced that its long-delayed changes to the program, called Title X, would take effect immediately. Under the new rules, providers must also financially separate any services that involve abortions from those that don’t. The changes also require clinics to physically separate abortion-related services from any other services clinics may offer, starting next year.
It is already illegal to use federal funds to pay for abortions. Advocates for the rule changes say they ensure that no taxpayer dollars “intermingle,” but opponents say they amount to an unethical “gag rule” on providers’ ability to refer patients for a legal procedure.
Several reproductive health groups, including Planned Parenthood, have sued over the rule changes. Planned Parenthood clinics serve about 40% of the 4 million low-income people who rely on Title X each year to pay for services like cancer screenings, STI testing, and birth control. In total, Planned Parenthood affiliates receive about $60 million from Title X, according to the Washington Post.
For weeks after the Trump administration’s announcement, Planned Parenthood lived in an uneasy limbo: It did not officially leave the program, but it stopped using the Title X money and instead started relying on limited emergency funds. However, by Monday, Title X grant recipients must send the Department of Health and Human Services a plan detailing their efforts to comply with the new rules.
Because Planned Parenthood refuses to adhere to requirements , the organization has no choice but to leave Title X. Now, the group wants the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to block the rule changes from being implemented.
“The Trump administration is targeting providers like Planned Parenthood in an attempt to end access to birth control and other reproductive health care. They are forcing qualified, expert health care providers out of our nation’s decades-old program for affordable birth control,” Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement. “This is a blatant assault on our health and rights, and we will not stand for it.”
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It’s still unclear if losing Title X money will force Planned Parenthood clinics to close, or how soon that may happen. But without Title X, health centers’ hours will likely be cut, patients will face longer wait times, and services overall will be impacted. And if Title-X funded Planned Parenthood clinics do close, other clinics that receive Title X money would have to increase their caseloads by an average of 70%, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which supports abortion rights.
Planned Parenthood isn’t the only organization threatening to leave the Title X program rather than follow the new rules. At least one other, Maine Family Planning, the only Title X grantee in the state, has also announced that it will depart.
Cover: A Planned Parenthood clinic is seen Tuesday, June 4, 2019, in St. Louis. A judge is considering whether the clinic, Missouri's only abortion provider, can remain open. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)