Planned Parenthood leaving Title X program 'huge win for women's health,' pro-life leader says

The exterior of a Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center is seen on May 28, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri.
The exterior of a Planned Parenthood Reproductive Health Services Center is seen on May 28, 2019 in St Louis, Missouri. | Getty Images/Michael B. Thomas

Planned Parenthood announced Monday it's formally exiting the Title X federal family planning program over a rule enacted by the Trump administration preventing clinics that receive Title X funds from referring patients for abortion.  

Acting Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson told reporters that affiliate clinics that received federal tax dollars through Title X sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services Monday indicating that they will no longer continue to be part of the program.

“Today, we are announcing that due to an unethical and dangerous gag rule, the Trump administration has forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X — the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care,” Johnson said in a press call. 

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“Planned Parenthood is still open. Our doors are open today, and our doors will be open tomorrow.”

Title X, which was enacted during the Nixon administration in 1970, grants up to $286 million per year to health care clinics nationwide to provide things such as contraceptives, cancer screenings, STD testing and other health care services to low-income patients. 

In her statement to the media, Johnson assured that Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, will continue its legal battle against the Protect Life Rule. The rule, slated to go into effect on Sept. 18, bars clinics that receive Title X funds from telling patients how or where to access abortion.

Serving about 40 percent of Title X patients, Planned Parenthood clinics were the largest provider of Title X care in the country. 

Pro-life leaders have cheered the new HHS rule as being one that would redirect Title X funds to family planning centers that don’t perform an abortion. For years, pro-life groups have pushed to strip Planned Parenthood of its over $500 million in federal funding every year. 

“Planned Parenthood … today made a choice not to separate its abortion operation from Title X services, and in doing declined Title X funding, which makes up approximately 4 percent of their annual budget,” March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said in a statement. “Abortion is neither health care nor family planning and taxpayer dollars should not support abortion.”

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life lobbying organization, argued in a statement that the Protect Life Rule does not reduce family planning funding but only "directs taxpayer funding to family planning providers who stay out of the abortion business."

"Women have the most to gain from this news. With community health alternatives vastly outnumbering Planned Parenthood facilities nationwide, on average, these health centers would see an additional two clients per week," Dannenfelser said. "This is a huge win for women’s health.”

Meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights maintain that clinics are not allowed to use Title X funds to perform abortion and that the new HHS regulation is nothing more than a “gag rule” against clinics that refer or provide abortions. 

“[L]et’s be clear: the impact of the Trump administration's gag rule will reverberate across the country,” Johnson argued. “The Title X program is designed to help bring access to birth control, STD testing and more to those who otherwise can’t afford it. For too many people struggling to make ends meet — including those people in rural areas and communities of color — this gag rule may mean they delay or go without care.”

According to Johnson, Planned Parenthood is the only Title X grantee in Utah. In Minnesota, Planned Parenthood serves 90 percent of the Title X patients, Johnson claimed, arguing that it will be “impossible for other health centers to fill the gap.” 

Johnson continued by arguing that the Trump administration is “doing this as an attack" on abortion. 

Abortion providers, as well as nearly two dozen states, are challenging the Protect Life Rule in federal court.

“At Planned Parenthood, we refuse to cower to the Trump-Pence administration,” Johnson said. “We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients."

A lawyer for Planned Parenthood warned the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals last week that Planned Parenthood clinics would withdraw from the Title X program if the court did not issue a stay preventing the Trump administration from enacting the new rule. 

In a response letter sent to Ninth Circuit last week, Justice Department attorney Jaynie Lilley said that nothing in the new Title X rule will lead to the expulsion of Planned Parenthood or other grantees. 

“[T]he Rule merely requires grantees to refrain from providing referrals for abortions,” Lilley wrote. “If the seven Planned Parenthood direct grantees insist on providing abortion referrals even within a federally funded program, and feel so strongly that they would withdraw from the program and the public they serve, that is their own choice, not a consequence of the Rule.”

Ashley McGuire, a senior fellow with the Catholic Association, said that Planned Parenthood’s decision makes it “crystal clear that abortion is its number one priority.”

“Planned Parenthood could have chosen to make the investment to restructure to be compliant with federal law, or [could] have chosen to abandon abortion altogether and focus instead on women’s health. Instead, the abortion chain is walking away from tens of millions of dollars of money earmarked to help low-income women,” McGuire said.

Recently fired president Dr. Leana Wen said she was ousted because she wanted to promote comprehensive women’s health over abortion. Once again, Planned Parenthood is placing abortion above all else, most especially the low-income women they claim to be serving.”

Pro-choice activists such as NARAL’s Ilyse Hogue blasted the Trump administration following Planned Parenthood’s announcement. 

“Trump fulfills debt he owes the anti-choice crowd for their support in 2016: excluding Planned Parenthood from Title X funding ... This is about control. Period. We will #resist," Hogue wrote in a tweet

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

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