A series of rule changes related to how the federal government distributes money allocated for the family planning grant program known as Title X could make a significant dent in funding for Planned Parenthood.
The new rules will prevent clinics and Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding for abortion services and forbid them from even mentioning abortion as an option to pregnant clients.
The rules will not affect other Planned Parenthood services like giving birth control to poor women or STI screening. They also won’t affect Medicaid reimbursement.
The yelps of outrage from Planned Parenthood and its allies was predictable.
The major changes include a new requirement that all participating Title X providers “maintain physical and financial separation from locations which provide abortion as a method of family planning.” This means that any clinic or doctor’s office that also offers abortions is no longer allowed to receive federal grants that would help provide free or low-cost birth control for low-income women.
It doesn’t mean that poor women can’t get birth control. All it means is that the providers who want Title X money can’t provide abortion services. If the provider follows the new rules regarding abortions, they can dispense as much free birth control as they wish.
It should be noted that abortion has nothing to do with “birth control.” But saying so lumps abortion in with other services offered by Planned Parenthood that wouldn’t be affected if PP got out of the abortion business.
The new rules also include strict guidelines around what participating providers can and cannot say about pregnancy and abortion. In short, participating providers will no longer be required to offer both pregnancy or abortion counseling, as they were before. Now they are only permitted to offer “nondirective pregnancy counseling” and crucially, they are prohibited from even referring women to abortion providers.
Reproductive health experts have referred to this change as a “gag rule” because it limits what providers can and cannot say to patients. Major medical associations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association have opposed the rule on the grounds that it violates medical ethics to keep information from patients.
Whether you support abortion rights or not, the reality is that it’s legal. Preventing medical professionals from informing pregnant women of a legal option for their medical care violates medical ethics, regardless of what anyone thinks of abortion.
Planned Parenthood is crying “wolf.” They keep claiming that abortions only make up a small part of their business, yet preventing them from performing abortions will ruin them? Considering that they performed about 320,000 abortions last year, they may be right. Maybe now they’ll concentrate more on actually offering healthcare services to poor women than on using abortion as their primary “birth control” method.
The rules will be challenged in court, where they face an uncertain future.