In the wake of the Trump Administration’s newest legislation regarding abortion counseling, Planned Parenthood has elected to withdraw from the federal Title X family planning program rather than comply with the administration’s ruling. The gag rule, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), prevents programs under Title X from administering or referring patients for abortion, except in circumstances of rape, incenst or medical emergency.
Planned Parenthood and similar medical organizations have asserted the interference of the gag rule with patient-doctor relationships, as well as its unethical implications on the care of the patient. Opponents of abortion access, however, have long advocated for the separation of federal funding and organizations that provide or refer patients for abortions.
“…The Trump administration has forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X,” acting president of Planned Parenthood Alexis McGill-Johnson told NPR. “…the gag rule will reverberate across the country.”
Officials also added that this reverberation will cause patients to experience longer waiting periods and increased expenses for reproductive healthcare even beyond abortion services.
The announcement of Planned Parenthood’s withdrawal from Title X came shortly after their submission of a letter to the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. Although an attorney for Planned Parenthood indicated that the organization had hoped to remain in Title X but cease their use of funding while the issue is litigated, the letter addressed that HHS had informed grantees that they would need to leave Title X if they were unable or unwilling to demonstrate “good faith” efforts to comply with the gag ruling. The letter expressed that Planned Parenthood would have, “no option but to withdraw from the Title X program.”
“Every grantee had the choice to accept the grant and comply with the program’s regulations or not accept the grant if they did not want to comply. Some grantees are now blaming the government for their own actions – having chosen to accept the grant while failing to comply with the regulations that accompany it – and they are abandoning their obligations to serve their patients under the program,” said HHS officials in a statement released to NPR.
Planned Parenthood has been involved with Title X since it began and their withdrawal from the $286 million program could create problems for patients who benefit from services such as STD screenings and contraception at Planned Parenthood clinics. Nearly four million low-income Americans rely on Title X for care each year and without access, they may be more likely to delay or go without medical attention.
Many anti-abortion advocates have expressed a hope that Planned Parenthood’s withdrawal from Title X will open up increased funding to independent or religiously based family planning organizations that are willing to comply with the HHS rulings. However, many of these organizations do not provide a variety of services that Planned Parenthood has historically facilitated, including a full range of contraception and crisis pregnancy counseling that addresses every option.
Emily Nestler of the Center for Reproductive Rights, which is representing a Maine family planning clinic that is also withdrawing from Title X, told NPR in an interview: “Today is the tipping point, I think, and you’re going to really see the unwinding of a program that has provided extraordinary care and been a huge success for decades.”
UNCG student Maris Jones has found this to be a topic of conversation in one of her classes.
“I don’t think people understand how much this is going to impact healthcare as a whole,” said Jones “By basically pushing Planned Parenthood and other similar groups out of Title X, the Trump administration is keeping Americans from a lot more than just abortions…[Planned Parenthood] provides so many services, and I really believe this whole issue is going to make reproductive healthcare inaccessible for a lot of people.”