Washington state leads challenge to Trump's abortion policy

Grant Boone
March 1, 2019

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Monday the state is leading the challenge to the Trump administration's final rule that aims to reshape the Title X family planning network. New Jersey received $8.8 million through the program this year, which was distributed among 47 family health programs. Tong's office could not say if there were other state health centers that receive Title X money.

Gov. Phil Murphy - who has reinstated annual state funding of almost $7.5 million for women's healthcare programs - joined with Democratic leaders from a dozen other states to challenge the Trump administration's proposed changes to Title X when they were first announced in June.

Planned Parenthood and the state of Missouri have been in a legal fight over the restrictions since November 2016, when Planned Parenthood challenged the requirements for ambulatory surgical center licensing and admitting privileges to local hospitals for doctors, AP reports.

The funding comes through the Title X program, which provides reproductive healthcare services, from breast cancer screenings, to STI and HIV tests, to birth control.

Planned Parenthood provides more than 40 percent of Title X services in the U.S. It is already illegal to use Title X for abortion services.

Federal officials also fear that, in its current form, the law does not properly protect the conscience of those who oppose abortion in all forms. Providers have long had to financially separate abortion services from other services they provide. "Forcing providers to find or create separate facilities jeopardizes some clinics. and will force most Washington state healthcare providers to forego Title X funds altogether".

Planned Parenthood has not specifically announced that it will sue, but Dr. Leana Wen, the organization's president, was clear last week in a call with reporters that "Planned Parenthood can not participate in a program that would force our providers to compromise their ethics". Officials in Washington state and OR also have pledged to sue the Trump administration over the decision.

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In 2010, the Affordable Care Act added to that, with language that, among other things, bars HHS from issuing any regulation that "interferes with communications regarding a full range of treatment options between the patient and the provider" or that "restricts the ability of health care providers to provide full disclosure of all relevant information to patients making health care decisions". "Those decisions must stay between patients and their medical providers - not the federal government".

Established almost 50 years ago, the Title X program has provided a stable source of funding for facilities that are often the only care providers to low-income women and their families. Almost half of these patients lack health insurance, according to research by the Guttmacher Institute, which tracks reproductive health issues.

In addition to free and low-priced birth control, this program provides screenings for cancer, diabetes, depression, sexually-transmitted diseases and more.

Another provision that drew praise from Archbishop Naumann is its prohibition on referrals for abortion as a method of family planning. For every dollar invested, $7 was saved, the institute said.

The family planning program is also popular with the public, advocates note.

Attorney General William Tong said he would take "swift legal action" to preserve the federal funding for organizations like Planned Parenthood. One in five women have taken to the streets to demonstrate against Trump, the group found. "Washington has been, and will continue to be, a state that stands with women and their right to safe and legal abortion and reproductive care".

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