America’s largest abortion provider may lose $60 million in federal funding after the organization indicated it doesn’t intend to comply with new rules issued by the Trump administration for a decades-old family planning grant program.
The program, established in the 1970s as Title X of the Public Health Service Act, pays for family planning projects for mostly poor people. It’s been prohibited from funding abortion services, but President Bill Clinton changed the rules so that recipients of the funds were not only allowed, but actually required, to refer patients to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood is estimated to receive about a quarter of all Title X funding.
On Feb. 22, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a rule that “prohibits the use of Title X funds to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning,” the department stated in a release.
The rule also requires “clear financial and physical separation between Title X and non-Title X activities.”
The rule addresses the complaints of abortion opponents, who have argued that the Title X funding helps abortion providers, and Planned Parenthood, in particular, to free up other money that can then be used to fund abortions.
“It’s certainly going to harm their ability to operate and continue to reach their tentacles out into communities and try to get people in for abortions,” said Lila Rose, founder of the anti-abortion Live Action non-profit, in a Feb. 25 interview. “It’s going to go instead to non-abortion facilities so it is a win, a modest win, but an important win for the pro-life community and for the life of children in the womb.”
Planned Parenthood acknowledged in a Feb. 22 tweet that “it would be impossible for Planned Parenthood and many other providers to continue participating in the program” under the new rule as it would need to separate its abortion facilities from its clinics that provide the Title X-funded services.
The organization’s president, Leana Wen, labeled it a “gag rule,” in a video posted on Twitter on Feb. 22, saying, “It will prohibit doctors like me from being able to provide full and accurate information to our patients.”
While she was referring to the rule’s abortion referral ban, the rule actually allows the Title X recipients to counsel patients on abortion—it just precludes them from directing the patient to an abortion provider. And even that is not absolute, as the rule not only allows but requires of the grantees “referral to other medical facilities when medically necessary,” which includes referrals for “abortion because of an emergency medical situation,” the department stated in the final rule (pdf).
Planned Parenthood speculated in a Feb. 22 tweet that the new rule “is clearly intended to make it harder for health centers like Planned Parenthood to participate in the [Title X] program.”
The organization only stands to lose less than 4 percent of its revenue, which in fiscal 2018 reached close to $1.7 billion.
Planned Parenthood didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Performing more than 330,000 abortions a year (pdf), Planned Parenthood has been the leading proponent of abortion.
“Our core mission is providing, protecting and expanding access to abortion and reproductive health care,” Wen said in a Jan 8 tweet.
The organization has also been the primary target of abortion opponents, who have long pushed for stripping it of taxpayer funding, of which it collects more than $560 million a year.
Criticism surged after undercover videos released in 2015 showed Planned Parenthood executives discussing the illegal sale of aborted baby body parts.
The organization labelled the videos “deceptively edited,” but a federal judge in Texas ruled on Jan. 17 that the video used as evidence was determined by an independent forensic firm “authentic and not deceptively edited.”
The ruling affirmed the decision of Texas to strip Planned Parenthood of Medicaid funding in response to the videos.
The abortion debate has intensified in recent months after New York enacted a law on Jan. 22 that allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy for any reason and as late as the time of birth if necessary to protect the woman’s life or health.
A similar law was proposed by Virginia state lawmaker Kathy Tran, which caused a backlash, especially after Democratic Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam responded by suggesting that parents should have the right to have their baby killed even after delivery in cases when the baby has “severe fetal abnormalities” or is deemed “nonviable.”
In fact, several states, including California, have had similar laws on the books for years.
Only 28 percent of Americans think abortion should generally be legal after the first trimester, according to Gallup.
Still, about one in nine abortions happens in the second trimester or later, according to the left-leaning Guttmacher Institute.