As our mainstream news media mostly fixated on events abroad in Israel and Greenland the past week, a far more significant event was taking place at home. Last Monday, Planned Parenthood Federation of America formally announced they would be pulling out from the national Title X family planning program. A federally funded grant that allotted them nearly $60 million a year to provide health care services.
Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of health care services beyond simply abortion or contraception. They include screening for severe illnesses like diabetes and cancer at more than 600 locations throughout the United States. Also testing for general health issues plus HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. And offering numerous treatments, medications and vaccinations as well. In addition, the clinics offer various types of medical treatment for men.
The gut-wrenching decision follows a number of recent rule changes enacted by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) courtesy of the Trump administration. A primary point of contention here is known as the Protect Life Rule, one prohibiting referral for abortion as a method of family planning, rolled out six months ago. Title X prohibits the use of said federal grant money on abortion. Even though Planned Parenthood has long maintained they operate in accordance with those rules. In a definitive action the political war on abortion across our nation has now been amplified. Surely there will be extensive collateral damage to come.
Those unfortunate victims who are widely expected to be most adversely affected are women from less advantaged, often rural communities. Distance and access to transportation may be other issues. Planned Parenthood serves about 1.6 million women in this country that currently face few health care options and limited resources including a lack of insurance coverage. According to officials, patients are likely to experience longer wait times and higher costs for reproductive health care. As a result some of these clinics may be forced to lay off medical staff.
In a related step, the current administration has shifted some Title X subsidies to faith-based religious groups. The stunning reversal of course was clearly made in a designed effort to alter the focus of women’s reproductive health. The tide obviously turned as a wave of repressive state laws on abortion were passed lately. A big beneficiary in this outcome are the anti-abortion Obria Medical Clinics. Along with corresponding faith-based groups, they are jockeying to gain a greater slice of the government cheese. They do not provide any type of birth control, with the exception of the fertility awareness method. This procedural shift essentially has focused more attention on promoting abstinence as a viable family planning option.
The federation is faced not just with uncertainty surrounding their immediate future but additionally by clashing forces from within. Dr. Leana Wen was abruptly dismissed by the board of directors in July, only serving as head for a scant seven months. Notably she became the first physician to lead the federation in almost half a century. Then she was reportedly removed because of philosophical differences. As it stands, that discord may signal further dissension in the ranks.
Still we haven’t heard the end of this epic saga. A conclusion of the story suspended at least until the judges’ ruling. As a number of aggrieved parties have filed appeals which are presently in due process. Planned Parenthood is suing the Trump administration over the rule with the American Medical Association, arguing that the policy change muzzles providers in violation of the Affordable Care Act and the Constitution. Nearly two-dozen states have also brought challenges, as well as a number of participating health care providers. Another set for U.S. appeals court. The 4th and 9th District Courts set hearing dates for the end of September to determine whether or not the Trump abortion regulations are lawful.
Further legal motions are underway. While the company has decided to concentrate their administrative efforts on the fundraising side. Several states have already promised to cover any extra costs resulting from that lost funding. As Planned Parenthood’s acting CEO Alexis McGill Johnson declared all of their facilities will remain open. In it’s latest financial statement, Planned Parenthood reported a $244.8 million surplus. That should buy them a good bit of time.
A fair question to ask might be how did we arrive at such a nasty break? To start with a deep ideological divide was perhaps a little too much. Following the federation’s heartbreaking decision were wild accusations flying from both sides. The bad blood was evident. Much of the tension at present can be traced back to Trump and his cabinet, but make no mistake this eruption was building for decades.
A number of things must factor into the final equation. Among them a lingering distrust by the bureaucracy, that combined with conflicting agendas and the unrelenting political pressure produced a highly volatile mix. Can this broken situation ever be repaired? Is Planned Parenthood actually better off on its own?