Gag rule forces planned parenthood out of Title X national program for birth control

Aug. 21, 2019
Planned Parenthood was serving 40 percent of all Title X patients

On Monday, August 19, Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced that the Trump administration’s gag rule has forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X, the nation’s decades-old bipartisan program for affordable birth control and reproductive healthcare. Planned Parenthood health centers have been a part of the program since it was created nearly 50 years ago, and have been the largest provider, serving 40 percent of all patients who get care through the Title X program.

“This reality will hit hardest people struggling to make ends meet — including those people in rural areas and communities of color,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Healthcare shouldn’t come down to how much you earn, where you live, or who you are. Congress must act now. It’s time for the U.S. Senate to act to pass a spending bill that will reverse the harmful rule and restore access to birth control, STD testing, and other critical services to people with low incomes. People’s lives depend on it.

In March of 2019, Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association sued the Trump administration to block the Title X gag rule. Although three district courts in the circuit blocked the rule, in July of 2019, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the rule to take effect. Those cases are ongoing, with the 9th Circuit scheduled to hold oral argument on September 23.

Once HHS said it was enforcing the rule, Planned Parenthood grantees stopped using federal funds but did not withdraw from the program, continuing to serve patients while seeking relief from the 9th Circuit. However, on Friday, August 9, HHS informed Planned Parenthood grantees that they had until August 19 to provide HHS with a plan to comply with the gag rule, or they would be forced out of the program.

Millions of people depend on the Title X program each year. It’s meant to ensure that those struggling to make ends meet, or who don’t have health insurance, can still access birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and annual exams. Most patients in the Title X program identify as people of color, Hispanic, or Latino. This program is meant to cover gaps in health care access and affordability — especially for people living in rural or underserved areas.

Planned Parenthood plays an essential role in the Title X program, serving approximately 40 percent of the 4 million patients who get care through Title X health centers — that’s more than 1.5 million patients. In many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of affordable reproductive healthcare, or the only provider that offers specialized care like on-site IUD services or the birth control shot.

People who can’t find or can’t afford another reproductive healthcare provider may be left with nowhere to turn or go without birth control altogether.  Even in areas where other providers are present, the providers often lack the capacity to serve additional patients. Community health centers themselves say there is no way they could fill the gap.

Planned Parenthood is not the only direct grantee who will be forced out. In total, the gag rule would force providers that serve nearly half of all Title X patients out of the program. So far, five governors (HI, IL, NY, OR, WA) have made clear that they could not participate in the Title X program if the gag rule was implemented, two state legislatures (MA and MD) have passed laws to that effect, and the only Title X direct grantee that serves the state of Maine has made clear they would not participate in Title X under the gag rule. In total, these eight states and Planned Parenthood health centers collectively serve 47 percent of the Title X patients in the United States.