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Efforts increase to protect women’s access to affordable family planning

States fight back against Title X rollbacks

J.D. Williams OW Contributor | 5/18/2018, midnight

The state of California joined a coalition of 19 states this week to file court papers in support of a nationwide injunction that would block a recent attempt by the federal government to reduce Title X access to family planning for low-income citizens.

The new set of requirements put forward by the Trump administration would strip away funding for women's healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood, and instead provide funding for natural family planning methods and abstinence-only education, state Attorney General Xavier Becerra said at a news conference in downtown Los Angeles.

The new requirements directly threaten the state of California, which has the largest Title X program in the nation, Becerra said.

“All women, regardless of their ZIP code or economic background, deserve access to basic health services,'' according to Becerra. "Yet once again, the Trump-Pence Administration is taking our country backwards by making it harder for women to access healthcare. These new requirements are illegal, lack transparency and undermine the longstanding, bipartisan Title X family planning program that helps millions of Americans. While the president continues to take action to undermine access to healthcare, California will keep fighting to protect the health of all Americans.''

The amicus brief filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia supports a lawsuit lodged last week by multiple Planned Parenthood branches, along with the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association. The organizations argue that the new funding requirements are in conflict with the underlying Title X statute and regulations.

The plaintiffs also claim that the administration has no clear basis for the policy change, and the resulting requirements are arbitrary, capricious and improper.

The current statute requires providers who receive Title X funding to provide patients with a range of family planning methods, yet the new requirements would emphasize only one set of family planning options --abstinence or natural family planning.

Anti-abortion groups have criticized the legal action taken by Planned Parenthood.

“Clearly they view the Title X Family Planning Program as their personal slush fund, to which only they are entitled for propping up their massive abortion enterprise,'' Mallory Quigley of the Susan B. Anthony List told NPR last week.

On the federal level, more than 200 democratic members of Congress wrote letters to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar this week expressing their opposition to proposed rules that would block Title X funds from organizations that provide or refer for abortions.

Due to the restrictions on even referrals the new proposal is being called a “gag rule.”

House Democrats, led by Reps. Joe Crowley (NY) and Barbara Lee (CA), wrote in their letter that “the domestic gag rule would bar patients from receiving information to support their ability to make informed decisions about their own reproductive health.”

The letter, led by Sens. Elizabeth Warren(MA), Patty Murray(WA), and Maggie Hassan (NH)  argued that changing the rules to exclude organizations like Planned Parenthood from receiving funding would mean that “millions of patients who obtain care at Title X-funded health centers annually would be denied the ability to receive complete and accurate information about their medical options including counseling on, and referrals for, abortion.”