One of the goals that a lot of us on the pro-life side have been agitating for for years is getting the federal government out of the business of funding Planned Parenthood. One of their major sources of income is via grants to provide “family planning” services under Title X of the 1970 Public Health Service Act. This served as a two-fer for Planned Parenthood. First, it let the federal government pay them to establish clinics and provide loss-leader services while giving them the ability to market their primary line of business: abortion. Even though Title X money couldn’t be used for abortions, Title X money was used to subsidize facilities and staff that, directly or indirectly, participated in abortions.
In December 2018, President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services began the process of rewriting Title X grant regulations to require that Title X grantees not share facilities, personnel, or corporate governance with abortion providers. It was squarely aimed at Planned Parenthood but I’m sure a lot of other “women’s health centers” were caught in this as well.
In doing this, HHS took advantage of a Supreme Court decision that had started during the Reagan Administration and wasn’t decided until 1991.
[Let me take a short side trip here an note that for all the people ragging on President Trump about his unworthiness to be president, explain how Trump was able to to in less than three years what George W. Bush–who is often held up as an evangelical exemplar–didn’t even attempt to do in eight. And I say this as someone who was a Bush supporter and consider him to be one of the most admirable men to have held the office in the past 50 years.]
The rule was issued in February of this year and was promptly challenged in court. Because not only is abortion a constitutional right, getting federal money is also a right. They were boatraced by the Sixth Circuit but there was always hope that the Ninth Circuit would uphold some order by a Seattle or San Francisco judge declaring a nationwide injunction. A couple of Obama judges (yes, Chief Justice Roberts there are Obama judges) did just that. On April 23, Obama-appointed Oregon district court udge Michael McShane issued a nationwide injunction and on April 25 Obama-appointed Washington district court judge Stanley Bastian did the same. But this time the unexpected happened. The Ninth Circuit removed the injunction ruling that, in light of the 1991 Rust v. Sullivan case, that the administration was very likely to prevail.
The dam has finally broken. Planned Parenthood has announced that they are out of Title X.
Planned Parenthood said all of its clinics will formally leave Title X, the marquee federal program dedicated to providing birth control to low-income women. A change to the program last year requires beneficiaries to comply with a so-called “gag order” on abortion services — something that Planned Parenthood said it isn’t willing to do. The clinic’s exit will result in a loss of millions of federal dollars.
In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Planned Parenthood’s new leader, Alexis McGill Johnson, announced all the health care clinic’s affiliates would be sending letters to the Department of Health and Human Services Monday, formally announcing their resignation from Title X. She warned that without Planned Parenthood, low-income women in rural areas would struggle to find affordable birth control options.
As Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life observed: “Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, today made a choice not to separate its abortion operation from Title X services, and in doing declined Title X funding, which makes up approximately four percent of their annual budget. Abortion is neither healthcare nor family planning and taxpayer dollars should not support abortion. Leana Wen’s recent firing and Planned Parenthood’s decision today doubles down on their ultimate goal, which is political abortion advocacy, not healthcare.”
Personally, I’m a huge skeptic about the validity of the federal government trying to reduce birthrates in any demographic segment. It smacks of paternalism and of the kind of eugenics program that eventually becomes involuntary sterilization and euthanasia. There is literally no service provided by Title X that is uniquely available there. I have no idea why we think mucking about in the sex lives of the poor is a worthy endeavor. That aside, it has always been abhorrent that we were allowing Title X to be used as a recruiting ground for abortion.
Despite my dislike of Title X, Planned Parenthood leaving will be a null set. There are more than ample community-based health nonprofits who will step up now that the abortion behemoth is out of the market. Perhaps women in need of prenatal care will actually start getting that rather than steered towards abortion. Maybe cutting off the feeder system will actually reduce the number of abortions. Maybe some of the monsters who worked to inveigle women into getting abortions will find themselves impoverished and homeless (though I doubt it).
Regardless, it is a step toward decency and even though a future Democrat president may change this rule, we’ve at least temporarily cut off this funding stream and we’ve created a new network of service providers who can compete with Planned Parenthood should the rule be reversed. For kids and families and the nation, this is win.