Planned Parenthood of Southern New England will stop accepting federal family planning funds instead of adhering to new rules that bar the organization from referring women for abortions.
The Trump administration this week pledged to begin enforcing regulations that prohibit Title X grant recipients from counseling patients about abortion. Under the new rules, providers are still able to perform abortions, but must do so in separate clinics and abide by the requirement that they not refer patients to those facilities.
Faith-based groups that oppose abortions and birth control are now eligible for funding under the regulations.
Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, which runs 16 clinics in Connecticut and one in Rhode Island – 12 of which receive Title X funds – will forfeit about $2.1 million annually by rejecting the federal money.
“Our patients are our primary concern and to be able to give them accurate information and complete information is our priority,” said Kafi Rouse, a spokeswoman for the organization’s southern New England locations. “They deserve honest health care and transparent health care and we will continue to provide that.”
Critics of the Title X overhaul have called the move a “gag rule” and said it creates barriers for women, especially women of color and low-income women, who are seeking abortions. Connecticut Attorney General William Tong is part of a multi-state coalition suing to reverse the regulations. Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association are also challenging the new rules.
“The Trump administration is stubbornly plowing ahead despite these legal challenges, and needlessly sowing chaos and confusion for healthcare providers and women,” Tong said Friday. “The gag rule is a partisan attack on the private relationship between a woman and her doctor, with immense public health and economic implications.”
The Title X overhaul has been on hold since it was finalized in February. Several federal judges had blocked it from taking effect, but a three-judge panel in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last month allowed the regulations to proceed. The appeals court, which will re-hear the case, denied a request from Democratic states to put the new rules on hold while the legal battle is underway. The Supreme Court could have final say over the case.
In Connecticut, about 43,000 Planned Parenthood patients rely on that federal funding for access to services such as cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and birth control. Sixty-one percent of patients who qualify for Title X funding are people of color, the group has said. Twenty-nine percent are African American and 32 percent are Latino.
The organization said it will tap emergency funds to make up for the shortfall through March 2020, the end of its fiscal year. If the legal challenge is unsuccessful, Rouse said, the group will seek new donors and pursue increased contributions from its support base. The $2.1 million accounts for about 5.5 percent of the budget.
Planned Parenthood officials in other states, including Maine and Illinois, have also said they will reject the federal funds rather than abide by the new rules.
“The gag rule would keep us from providing the best health care, and there’s no way we could take funding from anyone who would restrict us in this manner,” Rouse said.