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Trump Administration Moves To Overhaul Family Planning Program


The Trump administration is moving to dramatically overhaul the federal family planning program called Title X. It pays for services like contraception and health screenings for 4 million low-income Americans. Now a new rule makes organizations that provide or refer parents - patients for abortion ineligible for the program. As NPR's Sarah McCammon reports, that's a victory for social conservatives who've lobbied to defund Planned Parenthood.

SARAH MCCAMMON, BYLINE: It's already illegal to pay for abortions with federal money in most situations, but the Trump administration is taking that further. The new rule says anyone offering abortions or counseling women about where to get them can't receive Title X funds to cover services like birth control or STD tests. Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, calls it a gag rule.

LEANA WEN: This law makes it illegal for doctors and nurses to provide information to our patients about how and where they can access abortion care even if our patients ask for it.

MCCAMMON: Wen says Planned Parenthood will not comply with the rule. That could mean a major shift in the way the program is delivered since Planned Parenthood serves about 40 percent of Title X patients. Tom McClusky with the March for Life says federal funds should only go to organizations that don't provide abortions.

TOM MCCLUSKY: There are more women's health care centers out there than there are Planned Parenthood facilities or facilities that perform abortions. The role now for pro-life organizations - we have to now put our money where our mouth is - is to reach out to these organizations to help them to qualify for these grants.

MCCAMMON: In addition to blocking abortion providers from receiving Title X funds, some social conservatives would like that money to go to crisis pregnancy centers that counsel women against abortion. Those centers usually do not provide a full range of contraceptive options. Doreen Denny is with Concerned Women for America.

DOREEN DENNY: So we're hopeful that this is going to open the door to a variety of providers, including faith-based organizations and others, that are wanting to be a part of this program.

MCCAMMON: Reproductive health advocates worry the changes to Title X could erode the network of clinics providing a full range of services. Julie Rabinovitz is with Essential Access Health, which administers Title X grants in California. She said recently that could mean more unintended pregnancies.


JULIE RABINOVITZ: Birth control is a time-sensitive service, and it's an essential health care service. And we want to make sure that women are able to get the kind of birth control that they need and want in a very timely manner.

MCCAMMON: Reproductive rights groups are vowing to bring legal challenges intended to prevent the changes to Title X from ever taking effect. Sarah McCammon, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF RED SNAPPER'S "SPITALFIELDS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Sarah McCammon worked for Iowa Public Radio as Morning Edition Host from January 2010 until December 2013.
Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.