Washington state quits federal family planning program over Trump abortion rules

Washington state quits federal family planning program over Trump abortion rules
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Washington state exited a federal family planning program Thursday over the Trump administration's new abortion restrictions. 

Washington's Department of Health notified the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) on Thursday that it would withdraw from the Title X family planning grant program rather than follow new rules banning grantees from referring women for abortions. 

"The State of Washington is gravely disappointed in HHS's deliberate decision to force us and many other longstanding grantees out of the Title X program," wrote two state officials in a letter to HHS, first reported by Politico.

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"These new rules require our providers to deprive their patients of the information and services they need to make and carry out fully informed decisions about their reproductive health." 

HHS set a Monday deadline for grantees to provide evidence that they were complying with the new rules, which also requires all grantees stop providing abortions. 

The Title X program funds states, organizations and clinics providing low-income women and men with birth control, STD testing and other reproductive services. 

But the administration argues these funds shouldn't go to groups that provide or refer women for abortions, although federal funding already wasn't allowed to go toward the procedure. 

Washington, which is suing over the rules, told HHS earlier this week it would not comply with the rules but wanted to stay in the Title X program without using the funding while the case is playing out in court. 

But HHS told Washington state officials Wednesday if it didn't comply with the rules by Friday, its grant would be terminated, which could hinder the state's ability to receive future federal funding.

"HHS rejected our plan, deemed us out of compliance, placed our award on cash restriction, and delivered an ultimatum to implement its harmful and illegal new rules, leave the Title X program, or be terminated under threat of losing future federal funding," the state officials wrote in the letter. 

"HHS has forced us to terminate our Title X grant and lose vital funds for reproductive health care in our state," they added. 

If Washington wins its lawsuit against the administration, it's not clear if it will get the funds back because it had formally ended its grant Thursday. 

An HHS spokesperson did not respond to request for comment.

But HHS rejected a similar proposal by Planned Parenthood, leading the women's health organization that serves 40 percent of Title X patients to exit the program Monday. 

HHS had told grantees it expected them to make "good faith" efforts to comply with the rule.

Washington's departure from the program means it will lose more than $4 million a year in federal funds that it distributed to health departments and clinics across the state. Gov. Jay InsleeJay Robert InsleeFight against flavored e-cigarettes goes local Krystal Ball: What Harris's exit means for the other 2020 candidates Bullock drops White House bid, won't run for Senate MORE (D) has indicated the state will use its own money to fund family planning services. 

Vermont and Oregon also told HHS this week they wouldn't comply with the new rules, but would remain in the Title X program while not using any funds. 

A spokeswoman for the Vermont Department of Health told The Hill on Thursday, "Vermont will notify HHS, as they have requested, that we are voluntarily relinquishing our Title X grant."  

 A spokesperson for Oregon did not respond to a request for comment.