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Federal family planning resource access in peril
by Matt Simonette
2018-07-28

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Planned Parenthood of Illinois ( PPIL ) voiced its concern the week of July 22 for proposed changes to Title X, the nation's only federal family planning program, by the Trump administration.

Created in 1965, Title X ensures that low-income Americans have access to family-planning resources. But the changes could potentially eviscerate the program's effectiveness, said PPIL officials, who noted that Title X providers would in the future be prevented from making referrals to providers that could provide safe abortion services. Additional alterations include dropping a requirement that Title X providers provide resources allowing assistance in obtaining all approved birth control and family-planning resources.

Changes also redefine "low-income" to include persons whose employer's insurance does not cover birth control and family planning services, but does not stipulate additional financial resources for Title X providers.

The changes effectively create a "gag rule" on resources and a financially imperiling situation for Title X that can have a devastating impact for Illinoisans, added PPIL officials.

"More than 100,000 people in Illinois rely on Title X for their healthcare coverage," said Julie Lynn, PPIL's manager of external affairs. "There are 95 Title X providers and Planned Parenthood makes up 18 percent of those providers, but we see 42 percent of the patients. That number is similar to the nationwide number as well in terms of the number of patients Planned Parenthood sees in relation to other Title X providers."

Lynn added that Planned Parenthood is the only Title X providers in six Central Illinois counties.

"The people who rely on Title X for their care won't have anywhere else to go," she said. "... No one should be denied access to healthcare because of where they live."

In answering critics this past May, the Trump administration bristled at the gag rule label, but the law stipulates that providers may not "perform, promote, refer for, or support, abortion as a method of family planning, nor take any other affirmative action to assist a patient secure such an abortion."

The only exception is if a pregnant woman clearly states that she has already decided upon an abortion. Providers can direct provide her with a list of providers but, according to the rule, "The list shall not identify the providers who provide abortions as such."

A public comment period on the proposed changes is scheduled to end July 31, and PPIL has been encouraging its supporters to weigh in on the matter.

"People can post comments to show their opposition for this rule, because [the Department of Health and Human Services] will need to respond to those, and the more comments, the better," Lynn noted. "We want to eliminate this policy entirely but in the immediate time, we want to delay it from taking effect. That means that HHS needs to hear from everyone about the impact that this would have on them and their lives."

Comments can be submitted at www.federalregister.gov/documents/2018/06/01/2018-11673/compliance-with-statutory-program-integrity-requirements .


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