Organizations that receive federal funding for family planning services in Lancaster County and across the nation will not be able to refer their clients to receive an abortion due to new regulations from the Trump administration.
The federal government informed taxpayer-funded family planning clinics Monday that they must cease issuing referrals for abortions. It also required that clinics maintain separate finances from facilities that provide abortions.
Known as Title X, the family planning program serves about 4 million women annually through independent clinics. Many are operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates, which serve about 40% of all clients. The program provides about $260 million a year in grants to clinics. It does not pay for abortions.
Federal law forbids the money from being used towards performing abortions. But before Monday’s change, family planning centers using the funding had been allowed to discuss abortion as an option with their clients, said Ashley Lenker White, the executive director of Planned Parenthood PA.
“It is incredibly harmful and dangerous to our patients,” White said. “The rule would censor what health care providers can tell patients if they’re receiving Title X funding.”
In order to continue providing their full range of services, Planned Parenthood will become ineligible to receive Title X funding entirely, White said. As long as the rule remains in place, the organization will have to draw from its emergency funds to compensate for the lost funding.
Providers in Pennsylvania received a total of nearly $13.3 million in Title X funding in 2016, according to the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.
Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, a prolife advocacy organization, said in a statement he applauds the Trump administration for taking action, alleging that Planned Parenthood uses federal funding as a “slush fund” to promote and perform abortions.
Gov. Tom Wolf said the rule’s enforcement is an example of the Trump administration keeping women from getting access to information about their health care.
“I want the people of Pennsylvania to know that women should have all the information they need to make an informed decision about their own health care. I will continue to fight for that and look for solutions,” Wolf said in a written statement.
There are no clinics that provide abortions in Lancaster County, according to the National Abortion Federation. Harrisburg, York and Reading have clinics that do. Planned Parenthood’s Lancaster city office provides birth control, HIV and pregnancy testing, among other services.
Title X provides reimbursements in the form of federal grants to family planning service providers who serve lowincome or uninsured clients.
The family planning rule is being challenged around the country in court cases that have yet to resolve the core issues involved. However, a nationwide preliminary injunction that had blocked the administration was recently set aside, allowing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to begin enforcing the rule.
Planned Parenthood said it was defying the Trump administration’s ban on referring women for abortions, drawing a line against what they say amounts to keeping patients in the dark about legitimate health care options.
Planned Parenthood’s announcement came on a day when it also replaced its president, although it’s unclear if there was any connection.
Planned Parenthood acted after its Illinois affiliate said it would not comply with the rule and an independent provider, Maine Family Planning, announced it was withdrawing from the federal program. Planned Parenthood of Illinois said it would accept program funds again if the rule were lifted.
The national Planned Parenthood organization also abruptly announced the departure of its president, physician Leana Wen, who cited “philosophicaldifferences” in a letter to the staff. Political organizer Alexis McGill Johnson was named as acting president.
Wen was ousted Tuesday after just eight months on the job. In a Twitter post, she said she learned that Planned Parenthood’s board “ended my employment at a secret meeting.” She indicated the board wanted more emphasis on political advocacy, while she sought to prioritize Planned Parenthood’s role as a provider of health care services ranging from birth control to cancer screenings.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.