Planned Parenthood said on Monday it is pulling out of the United States federal family planning programme rather than abide by a new Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.
Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s acting president and CEO, said the organisation’s nationwide network of health centres would remain open and strive to make up for the loss of federal money. But she predicted that many low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood services would “delay or go without” care.
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“We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients,” said McGill Johnson. “Our patients deserve to make their own healthcare decisions, not to be forced to have [US President] Donald Trump or [Vice President] Mike Pence make those decisions for them.”
Responding with its own statement, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said that Planned Parenthood affiliates knew months ago about the new restrictions and suggested that the group could have chosen to exit the programme at that point.
“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 patients under the programme,” the department said.
Planned Parenthood was not the only organisation dropping out.
Maine Family Planning, which is unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood, also released its letter of withdrawal on Monday. The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, an umbrella group for family planning clinics, is suing to overturn the regulations.
About four million women are served nationwide under the Title X programme, which distributes $260m in grants to clinics. Planned Parenthood says it has served about 40 percent of patients.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco is weighing a lawsuit to overturn the rules, but so far, the court has allowed the administration to go ahead with enforcement. Oral arguments are scheduled the week of September 23. Several states and the American Medical Association have joined the suit as plaintiffs. Activists are also pressing Congress to overturn the rule.
Monday was the deadline set by the government for programme participants to submit statements that they intended to comply with the new rules, along with a plan. Enforcement will start on September 18.
Planned Parenthood has called the ban on abortion referrals a “gag rule”, while the administration insists that’s not the case.
Today, the Trump admin is forcing us out of the Title X program — our nation's program focused on family planning, of which we serve 40% of patients. This is a *direct attack* on Planned Parenthood and on our health and rights, and we will not stand for it. #StandWithPP #ProtectX pic.twitter.com/WRMvzGafNq
— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) August 19, 2019
Maine Family Planning CEO George Hill said in a letter to HHS that his organisation is withdrawing “more in sorrow than in anger” after 47 years of participating in the programme.
He said the Trump administration regulation “would fundamentally compromise the relationship our patients have with us as trusted providers of this most personal and private healthcare. It is simply wrong to deny patients accurate information about and access to abortion care.”
Along with the ban on abortion referrals by clinics, the rule’s requirements include financial separation from facilities that provide abortion, designating abortion counselling as optional instead of standard practice, and limiting which staff members can discuss abortion with patients. Clinics would have until next March to separate their office space and examination rooms from the physical facilities of providers that offer abortions.
Rights groups have accused the Trump administration of waging a war against women’s rights and reproductive health by reinstating the global gag rule, appointing anti-abortion rights activists to key posts in federal departments dealing with women’s health and the Title X rule changes.