Oregon quits federal family planning program over new abortion restrictions

Oregon quits federal family planning program over new abortion restrictions
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Oregon on Tuesday announced it has exited a federal family planning program over opposition to the Trump administration’s new abortion restrictions.

In a letter sent Monday to the Department of Health and Human Services, the Oregon Health Authority said 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 has been a Title X grantee since 1970. Last year, Title X-funded clinics served more than 44,000 people in Oregon, state officials said in a statement.

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Oregon is the latest state to leave the program, after Washington and Vermont decided to give up Title X funds last week. 

The administration’s rules “impose restrictions on health care providers and patients that are unlawful, unethical and without merit,” Lillian Shirley, director for the Oregon Public Health Division, wrote. 

“If HHS had left the state any choice other than violating the rights of individuals seeking reproductive health care, Oregon would have remained in the Title X program. HHS’ abandonment of the principles of the Title X program is upsetting, deeply disappointing and an unconstitutional violation of women’s rights,” Shirley said in the letter.

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

The Title X program funds states, organizations and clinics providing low-income women and men with birth control, sexually transmitted disease 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.

Oregon is the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit challenging the Title X rule. It is joined by 19 other states and the District of Columbia as well as Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association.

If the new regulations are vacated, Oregon said it reserves the right to withdraw its termination and resume participation in the Title X program.

In a statement, Patrick Allen, director of the Oregon Health Authority, said the state “is fortunate to have funds available to continue offering comprehensive reproductive health care services.”

Allen said the new rule “will not prevent health clinics and care providers from continuing to offer the full range of high-quality, personalized and trusted reproductive health services they have always delivered.”