Planned Parenthood Ill. rejects Trump gag rule
Organization refuses to compromise health care, drops out of Title X program
By Ted Cox
Planned Parenthood is dropping out of a federal health-care program rather than submit to new anti-abortion rules imposed by the Trump administration.
The Title X program dates back to the Nixon administration and provides funding for family planning, but just over a year ago President Trump announced plans to impose rules forbidding anyone taking part in the plan to also provide abortions — or to even counsel patients on whether an abortion is appropriate. He made the announcement at a fundraising gala for a prominent anti-abortion group, saying, “I pledged to stand for life, and as president, that’s exactly what I’ve done.”
Planned Parenthood argued that amounted to a “gag rule,” preventing a doctor under Title X from providing the full range of health-care options to patients, and some patients said that would threaten their only access to health care.
Planned Parenthood filed suit against the new rules, joined earlier this year by Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul, and several members of the Illinois congressional delegation argued against it. The American Civil Liberties Union and the American Medical Association also opposed it.
Thursday, however, a panel of federal appeals-court judges ruled against the suits and allowed the Title X rules to go into effect. According to Planned Parenthood, “The gag rule makes it illegal for health-care providers in the Title X program to refer patients for abortion, and also blocks access to care at Planned Parenthood by imposing cost-prohibitive and unnecessary ‘physical separation’ requirements.” The organization immediately rejected those conditions and announced it would drop out of Title X in order to continue to provide complete health care to patients — at a cost estimated at $5 million a year in Illinois according to a March Chicago Tribune story.
“Our doors remain open despite the Trump-Pence administration’s unethical efforts to limit patients’ access to reproductive health care,” said Jennifer Welch, president of Planned Parenthood Illinois, in a statement. “This gag rule blocks patients from accessing vital preventive care like birth control, cancer screenings, and HIV testing. It forces doctors to withhold information about abortion care from their patients — even if that information could save their lives.
"Because the Title X gag rule violates medical ethics and puts patients’ health at risk, Planned Parenthood of Illinois will no longer participate in the Title X program,” she added. “We remain committed to ensuring patients can continue to receive high-quality, comprehensive, and affordable care at our 17 health centers statewide.”
After the court ruling, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Evanston immediately tweeted that 60 percent of patients at one Title X health center reported that it was their only source of health care that year.
“This is an attack on women’s health and reproductive rights,” added U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, who called on the Senate to take action to protect Title X in its entirety.
Planned Parenthood Illinois has 18 percent of the state’s Title X outlets, but treats 42 percent of the state’s patients under the program.
“Long term, the gag rule will impact our ability to provide quality health care to all our patients,” Welch said. “For now, Planned Parenthood of Illinois continues to offer financial assistance to qualified patients because of the generosity of our donors. At this time, we do not anticipate making service or staff cuts.”