Following a warning to that effect last week, Planned Parenthood announced Monday it is officially withdrawing from Title X, the nation’s family planning program for people who are uninsured or of low income, and will go without this source of federal funding.

The decision stems from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denying an Aug. 14 request by Planned Parenthood for emergency judicial relief from the Trump administration’s so-called “gag rule” on the program.

“We refuse to cower to the Trump-Pence administration,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a conference call with reporters Monday. “Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions, not be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them.”

The nearly 50-year-old Title X program provides services at reduced or no cost, consisting of birth control, sexually-transmitted-disease testing and treatment, as well as cancer screenings.

But under the new rule, put into effect June 20 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, clinics are ineligible to receive Title X funding if they provide abortions or referrals for them — except in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency — though Title X dollars have never gone toward abortion care.

Planned Parenthood health centers serve about 40 percent of the 4 million Title X patients nationwide, and have participated in the program since it started, a news release from the organization states.

In Cheshire County, the only Title X provider is Keene Health Center, a chapter of Planned Parenthood, said Derek Edry, communications manager for Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire.

In 2018, the local center served more than 2,000 patients for all of its services, according to data from Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

Title X providers were required to submit letters by Monday stating how they would comply with the rule, according to Johnson.

Instead, Planned Parenthood submitted a letter last week to the U.S. Court of Appeals stating that, barring federal court intervention, the organization would formally withdraw from the program.

Johnson said the rule goes against the fundamental patient rights Planned Parenthood stands for.

“For too many people struggling to make ends meet, this gag rule may mean they delay or go without care,” Johnson said. “I want our patients to know that Trump may have given up on you, but we never will.”

In a news release, U.S. Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-N.H., said she stands with Planned Parenthood.

The organization’s announcement Monday “is a direct result of the Trump Administration putting itself between women and their doctors,” Hassan said, “and it is unconscionable that the Administration is jeopardizing access to reproductive health care for thousands of Granite Staters.”

But not everyone has panned the new rule.

“It is absolutely appropriate that the new Title X regulations take into account the difference between abortion and healthcare,” Jeanne Mancini, president of the anti-abortion March for Life, said in a February statement hailing the rule change. “Abortion is neither healthcare nor family planning which is why the Title X program has no business funding it.”

And in a statement sent Monday night, the federal health department said: “The new Title X regulations were final at the time the current grant awards were announced. ... Some grantees are now blaming the government for their own actions — having chosen to accept the grant while failing to comply with the regulations that accompany it — and they are abandoning their obligations to serve their patients under the program.”

Johnson didn’t answer a question during Monday’s conference call about how much federal funding Planned Parenthood received from the program, but The New York Times reported the organization was given about $60 million of the program’s $286 million annually.

On the state level, Edry said Planned Parenthood — which had already been refusing Title X funds, ahead of Monday’s announcement, in protest of the rule — is losing $1,700 per day.

Planned Parenthood has been relying on a small source of emergency funding to continue providing low-cost care, but Edry said it’s “not sustainable” for the foreseeable future.

Within the state budget was $3.2 million in supplemental family planning dollars for the next two years as a contingency while the rule is in place, according to Sabrina Dunlap, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood in New Hampshire, but Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed that budget.

Now, Planned Parenthood and other providers in the state are encouraging Sununu to reach a budget resolution that includes this funding to maintain access for those using Title X services.

“I want to reassure our patients that our doors stay open and our services aren’t changing at this point,” Dunlap said. “But time is of the essence ... it’s an ‘as soon as possible’ situation.”

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com.

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