Update (August 20, 2019): Planned Parenthood announced the decision to withdraw from the federal family planning and reproductive health grant program, known as Title X, today after the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to intervene.
“I want our patients to know: while the Trump administration may have given up on you, Planned Parenthood never will. Our doors are open today, and our doors will be open tomorrow. The Trump administration’s gag rule will reverberate across the country. This reality will hit hardest people struggling to make ends meet — including those people in rural areas and communities of color," said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, in a statement emailed to Refinery29.
Keep reading for our earlier coverage to learn more about how this will affect birth control access across the country.
Update (August 15, 2019): Planned Parenthood filed a final letter Wednesday with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, a last-ditch effort to persuade the court to act against a Trump Administration rule that effectively blocks Planned Parenthood from Title X, the federal family planning grant program.
Title X is a federal program that issues grants to local clinics to provide free or low-cost birth control and reproductive health services to low-income women. Roughly 4 million women each year get much-needed healthcare services through Title X. The Trump Administration earlier this year issued a rule change to the administration of the program that said that clinics that also provide or even refer patients for abortion may no longer receive and Title X grants. This was widely seen as an attack on Planned Parenthood and their network of clinics, which currently serves 40% of the patients who receive Title X-funded care.
The letter says that if the court doesn't provide "emergency judicial relief" by Monday, August 19, 2019, Planned Parenthood and its affiliates will be forced to remove themselves from the program, putting access to birth control and other basic family planning services at risk for millions of women across the country.
“The Trump administration is targeting providers like Planned Parenthood in an attempt to end access to birth control and other reproductive health care. They are forcing qualified, expert health care providers out of our nation’s decades-old program for affordable birth control — providing grants instead to an anti-abortion group that doesn’t even offer birth control," Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement. "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. This is a blatant assault on our health and rights, and we will not stand for it.”
Keep reading our earlier story below for more about the ruling that allowed the rule to go into effect. For background about the original ruling, check out out earlier coverage here.
The decision is a major blow for the 21 states and several health providers, such as Planned Parenthood, that challenged the rule in court after it was issued in March, arguing that it would severely impact low-income Americans' ability to access family-planning services and other types of reproductive healthcare.
The 1977 Hyde Amendment already bans the use of federal funds to pay for abortion care. What Title X does, however, is offer over $250 million in federal funds to health providers that can be allocated for family-planning services, such as affordable birth control, or other health services such as gynecological exams, cancer screenings, STIs testing, and more. The program serves about four million people a year, most of whom are low-income. Planned Parenthood specifically serves about 40% of people who get healthcare through Title X. This means the Trump administration's domestic gag rule could cut as much as $60 million in funds for the organization.
After the rule was issued in March, federal judges blocked it in the three states where legal challenges were filed: Oregon, Washington, and California. Judges in the first two issued nationwide preliminary injunctions. But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals panel — made up of Judges Edward Leavy, Consuelo Callahan, and Carlos Bea, who were all appointed by Republican presidents — ruled Thursday that the domestic gag rule is a “reasonable” interpretation of the law. The court allowed it to take effect immediately as the Trump administration appeals the previous rulings.
"This decision paves the way for a full-blown assault on reproductive healthcare. Title X providers can no longer refer their patients for the full range of healthcare options and patients are no longer guaranteed to receive complete, accurate information about their healthcare," NARAL Pro-Choice America Vice President Adrienne Kimmell said in a statement provided to Refinery29. "Limiting access to family-planning services and putting politicians in between a woman and her doctor to restrict the information she receives about her pregnancy options is a terrifying new threat at a time when reproductive freedom is under unprecedented attack."
Support for the domestic gag rule falls along partisan lines. Earlier this week, the Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a near $1 trillion spending package that includes several provisions reversing the Trump administration's anti-choice policies, including the domestic gag rule.