Planned Parenthood Sues Administration for Favoring Abstinence Over 'Birth Control' with Title X Grants

By Melanie Arter | May 3, 2018 | 7:09pm EDT

( - Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration Wednesday for making changes to Title X family planning grant applications to favor abstinence education.

Three Planned Parenthood affiliates - in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Utah - filed their lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia claiming that “Title X of the Public Health Service Act was created to provide comprehensive family planning services to - low-income patients.”

“But now,” the lawsuit said, “the government seeks to shift the Title X program away from its core statutory purpose, by dramatically altering the criteria that determine who can participate in the program.

“Those unexplained and unjustified changes contravene the Title X program as Congress intended it, violate the government’s own existing regulations, and threaten devastating, irreparable harms to the very patients Title X was meant to help,” the lawsuit said.

“In late February, the Trump-Pence administration began trying to completely remake the Title X program through a call for funding applications, changing the program so that it no longer focuses on either birth control or reproductive health care and instead pushes patients toward abstinence and tries to keep patients from coming to Planned Parenthood,” Planned Parenthood said in a press release on Wednesday.

“Not only is this illegal, but it could have devastating consequences and threaten health care for millions,” it stated.

The lawsuit claims that Title X was “enacted a half century ago to make good on President Nixon’s promise that ‘no American woman should be denied access to family planning assistance because of her economic condition.’”

Title X funds are meant “to assist in the establishment and operation of voluntary family planning projects which shall offer a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning methods and services,” the lawsuit stated. “Congress created the Title X program to ensure that all people, and especially low-income women, have access to family planning care.”

At issue are changes the Department of Health and Human Services made to the Title X grantmaking criteria in February, the lawsuit said.

“Specifically, the FY2018 FOA for Title X funds shifts the ‘application review criteria’ on which funding decisions are based away from what the statute and regulations require. Under HHS’s changes, those ‘application review criteria’ now give the most weight to new ‘program priorities’ and ‘key issues,’ such as placing ‘meaningful emphasis’ on abstinence as an approach to birth control (even for adults), providing onsite primary care, and cooperating with faith-based organizations,” Planned Parenthood said in its lawsuit.

“Rather than focusing on acceptable and effective family planning methods, the new FOA omits entirely any reference to contraception or to HHS’s own previously published standards for evidence-based family planning care. Those changes are designed to disadvantage reproductive health care providers like Plaintiffs—and ultimately, to warp the nature of the Title X program itself and undermine its intended function of supporting comprehensive family planning care,” the lawsuit added.

“Today is the day the Trump-Pence administration learns it can’t just circumvent the law. Planned Parenthood is going to court to stop the Trump-Pence administration from trying to impose its ideology on people. Our bodies are our own and shouldn’t be at the mercy of the Trump-Pence administration,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.

“We are going to court to fight for our patients’ health and rights — and for the millions of people in this country who need to access quality reproductive health care,” Laguens said.

Dr. Gillian Dean, senior director of Medical Services with Planned Parenthood, said the administration “is trying to tell women what kind of birth control to use — or in many cases not to use a method of birth control at all.”

“They are trying to push people toward abstinence or pressure women into marriage — instead of helping them get quality health care. They are trying to block people from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers — with devastating consequences. Everyone deserves the right to control their own bodies and future, and to get the care they need,” Dean said in a statement.


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