Despite Obama's Attempts to Preserve Funding, Planned Parenthood Remains at Risk
President Obama intends to sign new regulations preventing anti-choice legislators from stripping Planned Parenthood of funding because the organization performs abortions—but this might not stop state and local entities from going after it.
Desperate to find a beacon of light in these dark days since the election, some people are excitedly sharing the news that President Obama intends to permanently protect funding for Planned Parenthood and other women's health providers. But the proposal, which would ban local and state agencies from withholding funding from health providers just because they perform abortions, is not law yet.
Planned Parenthood receives part of its public funding from the Title X Family Planning Program, which helps them provide health services, such as birth control, cancer screenings and STI screenings, to poor or low-income patients. In the past several years, states have tried to block money going to Planned Parenthood because some of its clinics also provide abortions. This is despite the fact that Planned Parenthood and other women's health providers do not get federal funds for abortions.
To deter those defunding efforts, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a revision to regulations in the Title X program in September, making it clear that states can't withhold money for reasons other than a provider's ability to perform family planning services effectively. According to the rule change, doing so has "been shown to have an adverse effect on access to Title X services and therefore the fundamental goals of the Title X program."
Laura Goodhue, the vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, told local media, "This is a rule that's affirming what many courts across the country have already stated—that it is unconstitutional for states to take away funding from a provider simply because they provide access to safe and legal abortion."
"Access to reproductive health care should not depend on your ZIP code, your political party or how much money you make," she added.
The Department of Health and Human Services has allowed the public to comment on the amendment, and is currently considering those comments before publishing the final rule. (An email to the department's Office of Population Affairs inquiring on a timeline went unanswered as of press time.)
But even if and when the rule change becomes effective, those protections could only stop state and local entities from going after Planned Parenthood—not the federal government.
Gretchen Borchelt, the vice president for reproductive rights and health at the National Women's Law Center, says the organization is "absolutely not safe."
"There is a real threat from the new administration and from the new Congress," she explains. "They've already made it clear they want to defund Planned Parenthood. Certain members of Congress have already tried repeatedly to defund Planned Parenthood, and now they don't have a president who will veto any attempts."
And while Borchelt says it'd be great if the Title X proposal were finalized soon, Trump could try to undo that regulation once it's passed. "We don't know what this administration is willing to do," she says. "We don't know what the new Congress is willing to do with this new administration. I think all of the safety nets, services, and protections and the progress we've made over the last eight years in health insurance and health care are on the line."