Planned Parenthood, ACLU Sue Trump Admin Over Family Planning Grants

Supporters of Planned Parenthood
Supporters of Planned Parenthood / Getty Images
May 3, 2018

Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union filed separate lawsuits against the Trump administration Wednesday over changes to Title X rules for family planning grants.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released new criteria for obtaining Title X grant money in February, and both lawsuits allege the new criteria unlawfully favor anti-abortion and pro-abstinence organizations. Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit represents three affiliates in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Utah, while the ACLU filed suit on behalf of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.

The new criteria require organizations promote "activities for adolescents that do not normalize sexual risk behaviors, but instead clearly communicate the research informed benefits of delaying sex or returning to a sexually risk-free status." The lawsuits allege these criteria violate the original statute by favoring organizations promoting natural family planning and abstinence education.

"The Trump-Pence administration is trying to tell women what kind of birth control to use — or in many cases not to use a method of birth control at all," Planned Parenthood Federation of America's Gillian Dean said in a statement. "They are trying to push people toward abstinence or pressure women into marriage — instead of helping them get quality health care."

The Justice Department did not comment, saying it doesn’t comment on pending legislation. Mallory Quigley, the vice president of communications for the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, told BuzzFeed that the lawsuits were "ridiculous" and said HHS should "disentangle abortion centers from the Title X network."

On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers–more than 150 members of the House of Representatives and 40 senators–signed letters arguing Title X grant dollars should not go to abortion providers.

"Planned Parenthood has described abortion as ‘a necessary service that’s as vital to our mission as birth control,’ the House letter said. "It is time for the Title X funding stream for Planned Parenthood to be turned off."

Planned Parenthood is the country's largest abortion provider but argues it should continue to receive government funding because it also provides other services, to which its federal dollars go.

Planned Parenthood has weathered Republican pledges to defund it and continues to receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the federal government, most of which come from outside Title X. The House letter calls on all Title X grants to go to organizations "separate and distinct from abortion."

"To ensure that the federally funded family planning services offered by Title X grant recipients are unquestionably separate and distinct from abortion, Title X service sites should be physically, as well as financially, separate from facilities that provide abortion," the letter reads.

Under the Obama administration, Title X funding was withheld from states that defunded Planned Parenthood, such as Texas. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sent a letter to HHS secretary Alex Azar last month asking to receive funding again after the Obama administration moved its money to Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, which then subgranted the money to clinics that included Planned Parenthood.

HHS said Texas is welcome to reapply for grant money. HHS also told Planned Parenthood it is welcome to apply for grants as well, despite its complaints about the new criteria.