Feature

Planned Parenthood withdraws from Title X


 

Planned Parenthood will no longer participate in the federal Title X family planning program in response to a Trump administration rule that prohibits physicians from counseling patients about abortion and referring patients for the procedure.

In an Aug. 19 announcement, Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president and CEO, said the Title X changes, which amount to “an unethical and dangerous gag rule,” has forced the organization out of Title X after being part of the program for 50 years. Planned Parenthood health centers are the largest Title X provider, serving 40% of patients who receive care through the program.

“We believe that the Trump administration is doing this as an attack on reproductive health care and to keep providers like Planned Parenthood from serving our patients,” Ms. McGill said in a statement. “Health care shouldn’t come down to how much you earn, where you live, or who you are. Congress must act now. It’s time for the U.S. Senate to act to pass a spending bill that will reverse the harmful rule and restore access to birth control, STD testing, and other critical services to people with low incomes.”

In an Aug. 19 statement, Mia Palmieri Heck, director of external affairs for the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services said every current Title X grantee has the choice to accept their grant and comply with the changes, or reject their funding by refusing to comply.

“The new Title X regulations were final at the time the current grant awards were announced,” Ms. Heck said a statement. “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. HHS is grateful for the many grantees who continue to serve their patients under the Title X program, and we will work to ensure all patients continue to be served.”

The announcement by Planned Parenthood comes about a month after HHS gave family planning clinics more time to comply with the new rule if they are making good faith efforts to comply with the new rules. The changes to the Title X program make health clinics ineligible for funding if they offer, promote, or support abortion as a method of family planning.

So far, more than 20 states and several abortion rights organizations, including Planned Parenthood, have sued over the rules in four separate states. District judges in Oregon, Washington, and California temporarily blocked the rules from taking effect. In a June 20 decision, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government may go forward with its plan to restrict Title X funding from clinics that provide abortion counseling or referrals. The decision overturned the lower court injunctions.

Clare Coleman, president and CEO for the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said she expects further withdrawals from the Title X program to follow Planned Parenthood’s departure.

“The administration’s Title X rule is forcing the program’s 90 grantees and nearly 4,000 service sites to make gut-wrenching choices,” Ms. Coleman said in a statement. “They can stay in the program, despite the rule’s harms and compromises to Title X’s quality of care, for the sake of continuing to offer some Title X care for low-income individuals [or] they can leave the program and forego funding in order to avoid the rule’s limits on pregnancy counseling and other essential care, contrary to HHS’s own professional standards.”

HHS has previously said that the Title X changes ensure that grants and contracts awarded under the program fully comply with the statutory program integrity requirements, “thereby fulfilling the purpose of Title X, so that more women and men can receive services that help them consider and achieve both their short-term and long-term family planning needs.” The agency recently posted guidance on its website on myths vs. facts about the changes.

Ms. Johnson meanwhile, said Planned Parenthood clinics will remain open to serve patients, and that the organization will continue to fight the Title X changes in court.

agallegos@mdedge.com

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