Planned Parenthood vacuumed up tens of millions of taxpayer dollars each year through the Title X federal birth control program, but is now cutting ties with the program as a regulation prohibiting abortion referrals is set to go into effect.
The Trump administration introduced a rule forbidding doctors treating patients in the Title X program from providing direct referrals to abortion providers in 2018. The administration's new directive forbids referrals for abortions as "a method of family planning," but still allows for "nondirective" counseling on abortion services. Planned Parenthood's announcement came one month after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected its bid to block the rule. On Friday, the court again denied the organization's bid for an emergency injunction.
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The Title X program, established in 1970 under President Richard Nixon, requires that clinics maintain a "financial and physical separation" from abortion facilities, which are not eligible for federal funding, and "family planning" clinics which can receive federal funding. Abortion referrals allowed eligible clinics to coordinate with ineligible abortion providers.
Planned Parenthood took in $60 million from the program annually, but decided to withdraw from it rather than stop abortion referrals in compliance with the new regulation. The funding will now be re-directed to other health organizations that do not perform abortions.
"Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced that the Trump administration, through an unethical and dangerous gag rule, has forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X," the organization said in a Monday press release.
Withdrawing from Title X does not mean that Planned Parenthood no longer receives any federal funding. The organization still receives around $500 million in Medicaid funding each year.
The administration said the rule will ensure that taxpayer dollars are not directly connected to abortion. The Department of Health and Human Services said it will broaden health care access and protect "Title X healthcare providers so that they are not required to choose between participating in the program and violating their own consciences by providing abortion counseling and referral."
Pro-life groups have praised the new rule. Many said Planned Parenthood's decision to withdraw from Title X illustrates the organization's priorities. March for Life President Jeanne Mancini said that for all of Planned Parenthood's rhetoric about caring for poor women, it was willing to abandon Title X for the sake of abortion.
"Planned Parenthood, our nation's largest abortion provider, today made a choice not to separate its abortion operation from Title X services, and in doing declined Title X funding," she said in a statement. "Planned Parenthood's decision today doubles down on their ultimate goal, which is political abortion advocacy, not healthcare."
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, called it a "huge victory" for taxpayers and women. She said community health centers, which far outnumber Planned Parenthood clinics, would fill the gap left to provide care to Title X patients.
"Planned Parenthood showed its true colors by prioritizing abortion over family planning, refusing to comply with the Protect Life Rule and dropping out of the Title X program," she said in a release. "The Protect Life Rule does not reduce family planning funding by a single dollar, it simply directs taxpayer funding to family planning providers who stay out of the abortion business."
Planned Parenthood is now pushing for legislation to overturn the rule. The Democrat-controlled House of Representatives included language to reverse the Title X rule in a June spending package. The organization called on the Senate to adopt a similar measure.
"The Senate must push for a spending bill that includes protective language to make sure millions of people can continue to access health care through Title X," it said in the release.
Sen. Steve Daines (R., Mont.), founder of the Senate Pro-Life Caucus, said his state will benefit from the withdrawal.
"Taxpayer money no longer going to the nation's largest abortion provider will now be available for community health centers across Montana," he said in a statement. "In Montana, community health centers are more accessible, with more than three times as many locations to provide healthcare and benefit Montanans."
Planned Parenthood will continue to battle the administration before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Oral arguments are scheduled for September.