Planned Parenthood could leave Title X Program

Aug. 16, 2019
Provider serves approximately 40 percent of the 4 million patients who get care through Title X health centers.

Facing a Health and Human Services-imposed deadline of Aug. 19, Planned Parenthood says it has informed the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that unless it intervenes, Planned Parenthood entities who are Title X grantees will be forced out of the Title X program by August 19 –– putting access to affordable birth control at risk for people across the country. Planned Parenthood health centers serve 40 percent of the 4 million Title X patients and have been a part of the Title X program since its inception.

Title X is the nation’s only dedicated program for affordable birth control and reproductive healthcare, said the organization in a press release, noting that a gag rule makes it illegal for any provider in the Title X program to tell patients how or where to access abortion, and imposes cost-prohibitive and unnecessary physical separation” restrictions on health centers that provide abortion.

In addition to the American Medical Association, the gag rule has been opposed by major medical associations, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, as well as 110 public health organizations, and public health experts including former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, and others. A group of 19 different medical organizations, mayors, state lawmakers, over 200 Members of Congress, newly elected Democratic governors, and several other governors have opposed this legislation as well.

"They are forcing qualified, expert healthcare providers out of our nation’s decades-old program for affordable birth control …  Unless the 9th Circuit intervenes, this gag rule will destroy the Title X program –– putting birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment at risk for millions of people struggling to make ends meet, " said Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a public statement.

In many communities Planned Parenthood is the only provider of affordable reproductive health care, or the only provider that offers specialized care like an IUD or the birth control shot. People who can’t find or can’t afford another reproductive health care provider may be left with nowhere to turn.  Even in areas where other providers are present, Planned Parenthood says the providers often lack the capacity to serve additional patients and community health centers themselves say there is no way they could fill the gap.

The idea that other providers could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients has been resoundingly dismissed by experts, said the organization. Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the idea “ludicrous"  and in fact, many of the lists of “replacement” providers don’t provide reproductive healthcare. In Louisiana, the state list of alternative providers included dentists and nursing homes. In Florida, it included school nurses. In Ohio, it included food banks.

Planned Parenthood says Congress is also looking to take long-term action to protect Title X, noting that in June, the House of Representatives passed a spending package including strong language blocking the administration’s Title X gag rule from being implemented. Now, the Senate must push for a spending bill that includes protective language to make sure millions of people can continue to access healthcare through Title X.