Charles Edward Miller from Chicago, United States [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

August 19, 2019; Politico

Planned Parenthood and other major health providers have pulled out of the Title X program that offers federal funds to support family planning and preventive health services. The organizations withdrew because a new directive restricts Title X funding to organizations that do not offer abortion.

This move has been coming for several months. In March, several healthcare organizations filed suit, as did 21 states attorney general, against the Trump administration over the proposed guidelines. Federal officials defended the policy then by saying it “protects Title X healthcare providers so that they are not required to choose between participating in the program and violating their own consciences.” NPQ noted that the new guidelines do not “protect” anyone, but rather assign healthcare choices away from doctors, patients, and clinics to politicians.

As the guidelines listed in the Federal Register stipulate, “none of the funds appropriated for Title X may [now] be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning and related statutory requirements…In addition, Title X regulations are amended to clarify access to family planning services where an employer exercises a religious or moral objection.” The deadline to agree to the new guidelines was midnight on Monday.

Planned Parenthood believes that abortion and all forms of family planning are part of basic healthcare and should be available to all patients. They withdrew 400 of their clinics from the program and tweeted,

Planned Parenthood has the highest public profile in the reproductive healthcare world, but they aren’t alone in making this choice. Maine Family Planning and the state health department of Vermont also said they will no longer participate in Title X. Washington, Oregon, Illinois, New York, Hawaii, and Maryland have previously said they would do the same. Hawaii even allocated state money to cover the loss of Title X funds.

The organizations that have been forced out of Title X serve millions of women who do not have access to other private health services. Planned Parenthood alone serves 1.5 million women; they will lose access to discounted drugs and forfeit about $60 million in grants. Maine Family Planning will lose $2 million, a smaller loss than Planned Parenthood, but a substantial sum for the organization, which had $8 million in revenue in its 2016-2017 fiscal year, according to its most recent Form 990 filing.

Kate Gilmore, the United Nations deputy high commissioner for human rights, called the US policy on abortion “torture—it’s a deprivation of a right to health.” She had many more choice words on the subject, saying, “It’s a crisis directed at women.”

The funding is still out there for health providers, but it will now be redirected to organizations that do not offer the full range of health services.

According to Politico, two different appeals are coming up that are expected to challenge the new rules. The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will convene in September to re-hear a case from lower courts, and Maine Family Planning’s case will be heard by the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston.—Erin Rubin