Planned Parenthood leaves family planning program over Trump abortion rule

Planned Parenthood's affiliates will tell the Trump administration Monday that they will leave the federal family planning program rather than comply with new abortion restrictions. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had set a Monday deadline for Title X family planning grantees to prove they are complying with new rules banning providers from referring women for abortions.

Planned Parenthood said Monday its affiliates cannot ethically comply with the changes, which it called a "gag rule" on health care providers. That means Planned Parenthood's affiliates will lose millions of dollars in federal funding that it used to provide birth control and other reproductive health care services to low-income women and men.  

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"Due to an unethical and dangerous gag rule, the Trump administration has forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X," said acting Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson. 

Planned Parenthood said while it will use "emergency funds" to provide services to patients, the impacts of pulling its 400 health clinics from the program will vary by state.

"We're trying to do all we can to ensure that the care continues," McGill Johnson said. 

She said relying on charity and fundraising to make up the funding loss "is really the challenge. It's like holding an umbrella during a tsunami." 

Planned Parenthood receives about $60 million from the program annually and serves 40 percent of all Title X patients. 

McGill Johnson said it will become harder for patients to get appointments at Planned Parenthood clinics, who might have to drive "hundreds of miles" to get IUDs and other forms of birth control. 

The Trump administration pushed back Monday against Planned Parenthood's characterization that it is getting kicked out of the program. 

"Every grantee had the choice to accept the grant and comply with the program's regulations or not accept the grant if they did not want to comply," HHS spokesperson Mia Heck said in a statement. 

When the administration awarded the grants in March, the rules had not yet taken effect. Planned Parenthood and several states and organizations are challenging the rules in court. 

"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," Heck said.

Planned Parenthood's departure from Title X is a victory for the Trump administration and anti-abortion Republicans, who say federal funds should not go toward abortion providers. 

While federal funds are banned from covering abortions, the administration argues that any funds going to clinics that provide abortions can indirectly support the procedure. 

Still, Planned Parenthood gets millions more in government funds by serving Medicaid patients. 

Some state governments that are also Title X grantees are expected to tell the Trump administration Monday that they will leave the program, including Illinois and Vermont. 

"The Trump administration gag rule is fundamentally wrong," Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) told reporters Monday. 

"We will make sure access to these services remains available."

Washington state, Oregon, New York and Hawaii have also said previously they wouldn't participate in the program under the new conditions. 

Maine Family Planning, the only grantee in Maine, also told HHS Monday it would no longer participate in Title X. 

"We do not take this decision lightly," President George Hill wrote in a letter to the Trump administration."

"It is simply wrong to deny patients accurate information about access to abortion care."

Planned Parenthood, several states and other organizations are suing to block the new rules, but have hit obstacles. 

A panel of appeals judges in June for the Ninth Circuit reversed several injunctions that had been granted by lower courts, allowing the rules to take effect while the lawsuits proceed. 

The full court will hear arguments on the merits of the case next month. 

—Updated at 4:32 p.m.