The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah on Monday said its clinic doors will remain open, despite its decision to decline federal Title X funding that would come attached to new restrictions on abortion referrals.
“I am heartbroken that we have to withdraw today from Title X, but we refuse to let the Trump administration bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients in Utah," Karrie Galloway, president and CEO for the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a prepared statement.
News broke Monday that national Planned Parenthood had decided to exit the federal reproductive health program in light of the rule, rolled out in February by the Department of Health and Human Services. That funding currently accounts for some $60 million of the $286 million distributed through Title X.
Planned Parenthood groups in Utah and elsewhere, which serve more than 1.5 million women annually, have called the measure a “gag rule” designed to silence them on abortions.
While the Trump administration rule doesn’t prohibit conversations about abortion, it does restrict Title X funding recipients from making referrals or telling a patient where to obtain the procedure. Planned Parenthood said this is the first time it has been out of Title X since the program was enacted in 1970 during the Nixon administration.
Planned Parenthood says no taxpayer money goes toward abortions, but its providers do discuss abortions with patients and sometimes refer them for the procedure.
The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah (PPAU) uses Title X funds to care for about 37,000 Utahns each year, providing birth control and other preventive care, and it has been the state’s lone recipient of these federal grants since the 1980s. The federal funding — which was to total $2 million for the coming year — represents about a fifth of the PPAU budget, the organization has said.
“Our doors are still open today, and they will be open tomorrow. We will do everything we can to make sure our patients don’t lose care,” Galloway said in the prepared statement.
Interviewed Monday, Galloway said the loss of funding will force PPAU to do some “belt-tightening,” but that the organization isn’t making any knee-jerk decisions and doesn’t expect to discontinue any services. PPAU will probably have to lean more heavily on its donors and seek insurance reimbursement from clients who have health coverage, she said.
In any case, PPAU will find a way to survive financially, Galloway said. The more upsetting thing, she said, is that the Trump administration injected politics into a health care program that serves more than 4 million patients each year, about 1.5 million of them through Planned Parenthood.
“Private political messaging on the backs of the most vulnerable women and families is reprehensible,” she said.
Gayle Ruzicka, an organizer of the Abortion-Free Utah campaign, said while PPAU is the only Title X recipient in Utah, she’s not worried that women will lose access to health services, arguing that other clinics provide similar reproductive health care without making abortion referrals.
The Trump administration’s rule change was not a political decision, Ruzicka contends.
“Trying to protect unborn babies and protect the mothers of those unborn babies from a terrible decision like abortion," she said, “I don’t call that political, I call that good health care.”
Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association have sued the Trump administration over the Title X rule, with oral arguments in those cases slated for September, according to a news release. These groups say the restriction would force physicians and clinics to withhold medical information from patients and possibly deny women the ability to choose from a range of options available. They also say it would interfere with the doctor-patient relationship.
The New York Times contributed to this story.