Planned Parenthood warns it will withdraw from Title X if court doesn't intervene

People attend the March for Life rally in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018.
People attend the March for Life rally in Washington, U.S., January 19, 2018. | (Photo: REUTERS/Eric Thayer)

The nation's largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, said Wednesday it will formally withdraw from the Title X federal family planning program by next Monday if a federal court does not intervene. 

A lawyer representing the Planned Parenthood Federation of America sent a letter to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit asking for a stay of a rule passed by the Department of Health and Human Services banning organizations that receive money for the Title X  from performing abortions or referring patients for abortion. 

Planned Parenthood and pro-choice supporters have claimed that the policy amounts to a "gag rule" because it prevents clinics that receive Title X funding from telling patients how or where to access abortion. Meanwhile, the new rule has been praised by conservatives and pro-life activists. 

Planned Parenthood, which performs over 300,000 abortions every year, serves about 40 percent of Title X patients in the U.S. The Title X family planning program provides birth control and contraceptives to low-income individuals. So far in fiscal year 2019, HHS has administered over $286 million in Title X appropriated funds. 

Wednesday's letter, authored by Planned Parenthood attorney Alan Schoenfeld, states that "all Planned Parenthood direct grantees will be forced to withdraw from the Title X program by the close of business on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019," unless emergency judicial relief is granted.

"Moreover, Planned Parenthood subgrantees are being similarly forced to withdraw from the program as their grantees face the same compliance deadline," the letter adds.

Schoenfeld argues that the Trump administration's deadline "underscores the importance" of Planned Parenthood's pending emergency motion for the circuit to reconsider its July 11 ruling allowing the new HHS rule to take effect. 

He added that Planned Parenthood filed its emergency motion to prevent "expulsion" from the Title X program. 

 "Planned Parenthood has long been firmly committed to its Title X patients and to the Title X program, which it has served for nearly 50 years," the letter reads. "With deep regret, however, its direct grantees now have no option but to withdraw from the Title X program. Absent emergency judicial relief, they must do so by the close of business on Monday, Aug. 19 — less than a week away."

Aug. 19 marks the deadline for grantees to submit detailed plans on how they plan to comply with the new rule, which is slated to go into effect on Sept. 18. 

"We refuse to let the Trump administration bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients. The gag rule is unethical and dangerous, and we will not subject our patients to it," Acting Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said in a statement

Johnson further argued that that Trump administration is "targeting [abortion] providers like Planned Parenthood in an attempt to end access to birth control and other reproductive health care."

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"They are forcing qualified, expert health care providers out of our nation’s decades-old program for affordable birth control — providing grants instead to an anti-abortion group that doesn’t even offer birth control," Johnson argued. 

In a press release, Planned Parenthood criticized the fact that the Trump administration has awarded $1.7 million to the Obria Group, which does not provide contraceptives.   

Catherine Gleen Foster, the president of the pro-life organization Americans United for Life, said she is not surprised by Planned Parenthood's announcement. 

"[T]his will feed [Planned Parenthood's] reality distortion field that, despite being one of the most generously tax-funded nonprofits in America, it is somehow being attacked simply because the Department of Health and Human Services wishes to respect congressional intent," Foster said in a statement. "And Congress was clear: Title X was never meant to fund abortions. The law is clear." 

Conservatives and pro-life activists have long explained that giving Title X programming subsidies to Planned Parenthood only subsidizes the abortion industry because the "money is fungible."

Over the last several years, Planned Parenthood has received over $500 million in taxpayer funding each year.  

Last month, the Christian conservative lobbying organization Family Research Council released a brief on how the new Title X "Protect Life Rule" will work, stating that there will be prohibitions on co-location of Title X programs with abortion providers.

In order to receive Title X funds, programs cannot provide, promote or refer patients for abortion. 

"Because money is fungible, this ensures that taxpayer dollars are not sent to programs where they end up subsidizing the abortion industry," the FRC brief contends.

"Trump’s regulations also remove the abortion referral requirement put in place by [former President Bill] Clinton’s administration. This opens the door for pro-life and faith-based organizations to apply for Title X funds."

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