On August 19th, Essential Health Clinic officially became a part of Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. Unfortunately, this came on the same day as another big piece of news: Planned Parenthood announced they decided to pull itself out of the Title X program. Due to a new “gag rule” that would bar anyone that offered abortion services or information from receiving Title X funds, Planned Parenthood would have been kicked off the program anyways if they hadn’t pulled out.
Anti-abortion supporters have long crusaded for the defunding of Planned Parenthood so they rejoiced at Planned Parenthood losing funding without any regard on how those funds benefit those who cannot afford reproductive healthcare and contraceptives—the latter being something that helps prevent unwanted pregnancies that would be terminated at the horror of the pro-life movement.
Yet many anti-abortion supporters still managed to gripe about the whole situation despite getting what they asked for in Defund Planned Parenthood attacks. There’s a surplus of comments bemoaning about how Planned Parenthood could have continued to receive funding if only they had stopped performing those evil abortions and that they showed their “true colors” as a “murder mill” by supposedly choosing abortion over funding for reproductive healthcare services. Once again, the anti-abortion movement oversimplifies things and the truth is more complicated than they would like to acknowledge.
The gag rule basically backed Planned Parenthood into a corner and they only had two options.
The first option would have been to continue to receive funding in exchange for stopping abortion-related services. However, they believe and have campaigned “Abortion Is Healthcare”. Allowing themselves to be suppressed from giving information on abortion would be in conflict with their beliefs that patients should have access to accurate information and resources on what is a medical procedure. Choosing to comply with the gag rule would also have barred them from performing abortions and this would have decimated access to abortion services. In Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood makes up 3 out of the 4 abortion providers in the state. It would have been hard to say “My Body, My Choice” if they were responsible for obliterating access to one choice. And surely the internet comments from the anti-abortion movement would be gloating that Planned Parenthood admitted that abortion wasn’t healthcare by receiving Title X funding in exchange for suppressing abortion information and wiping out abortion access.
The other option—the one they chose—was to refuse to comply with the gag rule and withdraw from the program. From the anti-abortion standpoint, Planned Parenthood chose abortion over providing reproductive healthcare and contraceptives. What Planned Parenthood actually did was choose both. Planned Parenthood is still providing reproductive healthcare and contraceptives despite the loss of Title X funding.
So what did the loss of Title X actually do? First you have to look at what Title X actually is. It is a federal grant program started by Richard Nixon in 1970 dedicated to providing family planning services and reproductive healthcare to the poor and uninsured. Services include “natural family planning methods, infertility services, and services for adolescents; highly effective contraceptive methods; breast and cervical cancer screening and prevention services that correspond with nationally recognized standards of care; STD and HIV prevention education, counseling, testing, and referral; adolescent abstinence counseling; and other preventive health services.” What Title X doesn’t cover, as laid out in its five major provisions, is abortion. Additionally, the Hyde Amendment bars federal funding from being used to pay for abortion (except in cases of rape/incest or to save the life of the mother). Until this gag rule went into effect, healthcare providers that also provided abortion-related services in addition to a wide range of contraceptives and reproductive healthcare services could participate in the program, but the funding couldn’t pay for abortion services.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is already familiar with losing Title X funding as their funding wasn’t renewed earlier this year due to legislature passed in 2016. Thus, when Essential Health Clinic became Planned Parenthood, they ceased to be a Title X funded clinic. This meant they can no longer offer services for free or on a sliding scale based on income. Luckily, Wisconsin is one of several states that have a Family Planning Waiver program, a program similar to Title X in that it provides reproductive healthcare and contraceptives to low income women for free. But for Wisconsin women that don’t qualify for this program or women in states that don’t have such a program, they have to pay for services in full due to Planned Parenthood not having Title X funding that would reimburse them for providing services at a discount or free.
So the anti-abortion movement is celebrating the loss of funding that would help the poor and uninsured gain access to reproductive healthcare and contraceptives. It’s unclear if this is through sheer ignorance due to being blinded by their hate for abortion or that they don’t really care about the needy despite much of the anti-abortion movement being motivated by Christian philosophy.