THE TRUMP administration just won a victory over Planned Parenthood. Thousands of women will pay the price.
Planned Parenthood announced this month that it was leaving the federal government’s Title X program, which pays for family planning services for low-income Americans. As many as 1.6 million women and girls who currently rely on Planned Parenthood for things such as birth control pills and health screenings could be affected. The Trump administration argues there will be alternatives available to this vulnerable population. In some areas, that is not clear. Planned Parenthood is the only Title X provider in Utah. The organization serves about 90 percent of Minnesota’s Title X patients. Without Title X funding, clinics will have to charge co-pays, draw on financial reserves or shut down.
To some observers, Planned Parenthood’s decision to leave the program is yet more evidence that the organization values a pro-abortion agenda more than it does the essential health-care services it provides to so many women and girls. A new Trump administration rule bars Title X providers from referring women to get abortions unless there is a medical emergency. This is a sharp change from a 2000 rule that required Title X providers to tell patients where they could get abortions, if they were asked. The Department of Health and Human Services argues that its new rule better reflects the underlying law, which bars Title X funds from going to programs “where abortion is a method of family planning.”
In fact, overturning a two-decade-old rule was an unnecessary fight the Trump administration picked with Planned Parenthood. Title X funds were not paying for abortions before now. It is beyond tenuous to argue that telling patients where they can obtain an abortion, somewhere else, renders a provider a place “where abortion is a method of family planning.”
Allowing Title X providers to refer patients to clinics that perform abortions merely permitted the transfer of factual information to patients seeking the health care they desired. For many Title X patients, Planned Parenthood is their primary health-care provider. Restricting even the exchange of factual information about legal procedures asks doctors to betray their responsibility to disclose information to those seeking their help and care.
It is no wonder that Planned Parenthood balked. It is so unsurprising, in fact, that the Trump administration must have anticipated that it would push out the family planning organization from Title X. This was likely the outcome that the Trump administration desired: Planned Parenthood loses federal funding, and conservatives get to lambaste the organization in the process. Many more women, meanwhile, will face new barriers to health care.
Congress should overturn the Trump administration’s new rule, and soon — before too many clinics, mobile health centers and other women’s health providers face severe financial problems.