Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced earlier this week that it will withdraw from the federal Title X family-planning program rather than comply with what it labeled the Trump administration’s “unethical and dangerous gag rule.”
This move, however, does not take these federal family planning funds away from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin.
That’s only because Republicans, under Gov. Scott Walker, had already taken Title X funds away from Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin with Act 151, which passed in 2016, and caused the organization to lose its grants beginning this past spring.
What is happening on the federal level is nonetheless having an impact in Wisconsin.
“The national announcement is causing confusion among patients,” says Iris Riis, media manager for Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin. “It’s important our patients know that our doors are open, and we won’t turn anyone away — regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay.”
Title X family-planning grants, which serve millions of low-income or uninsured patients, began nearly 50 years ago as a bipartisan effort. Since Title X’s inception, Planned Parenthood has participated in the program and has been its largest provider, serving 40% of all Title X patients. It funds such services as birth control, STD testing and treatment, annual cancer screenings and exams nationwide.
Planned Parenthood, which provides full reproductive health care for its patients, including abortions, has been targeted by Republicans seeking to shut it down. The Trump administration rule prohibits recipients of Title X funding from referring patients to abortion providers — interferring with the doctor/patient relationship.
In March, Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association sued to block the Title X gag rule, a case which continues to play out in court. Democrats who control the House have also passed legislation in June to block the Title X gag rule, although the Republican-controlled Senate will not take it up.
“Our doors are open today, and our doors will be open tomorrow,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, acting president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement. “The Trump administration’s gag rule will reverberate across the country. This reality will hit hardest people struggling to make ends meet — including those people in rural areas and communities of color. We believe that the Trump administration is doing this as an attack on reproductive health care and to keep providers like Planned Parenthood from serving our patients.”
In Wisconsin, the 2016 law that required the state Department of Health Services (DHS) to apply for all federal Title X funds, also blocks Planned Parenthood from receiving any further funds via DHS. Although DHS is instructed to allocate the funding to other providers, Riis explains that the law was “written in a way that only excludes us.” And the federal gag rule will still apply to any other providers in Wisconsin utilizing Title X funds.
While the Title X gag order preventing abortion referrals works its way through courts, the group’s main message to all Planned Parenthood’s Wisconsin patients is to continue to seek the healthcare services they need.
“I just want to emphasize again that our doors are open,” adds Riis. “We’re doing everything we can to make sure these political moves don’t impact our patients’ ability to access the care they need.”