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How Planned Parenthood’s withdrawal from the Title X family planning program will affect Utah clinics

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FILE- In this June 4, 2019, file photo, a Planned Parenthood clinic is photographed in St. Louis.

Jeff Roberson, Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Planned Parenthood Association of Utah joined other Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country on Monday in announcing that it will withdraw from the Title X federal family planning program rather than comply with a new Trump administration rule.

The rule prohibits Title X grantees from referring patients for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency. The Title X program, created in 1970, provides low-income women with birth control, STD screenings and other services.

“I am heartbroken that we have to withdraw today from Title X, but we refuse to let the Trump administration bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients in Utah,” Karrie Galloway, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah president and CEO, said in a statement. “The gag rule is unethical and dangerous, and we will not subject our patients to it.”

The Trump administration first introduced the rule in February; shortly after, Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association sued the administration to block the new regulations. Litigation is ongoing, but the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals last month allowed the rule to take effect.

Planned Parenthood grantees stopped using federal funds after the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it was enforcing the rule, according to Planned Parenthood, but did not withdraw from the program. Earlier this month, however, the Department of Health and Human Services told grantees they would have to leave the program if they did not “show good faith efforts” to adhere to the rule, including providing the department with a compliance plan by Monday.

In addition to the ban on abortion referrals by clinics, the rule’s requirements include financial separation from facilities that provide abortions, designating abortion counseling as optional instead of standard practice, and limiting which staff members can discuss abortion with patients. Clinics would have until next March to separate their office space and examination rooms from the physical facilities of providers that offer abortions.

The impact of Planned Parenthood’s withdrawal will vary from state to state. Some states, including Illinois and Vermont, have said they would step in to replace lost federal funding.

Planned Parenthood has been the only Title X recipient in Utah for 35 years, according to the organization, and serves about 37,000 people per year through the program. By withdrawing from the program, the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah will lose about $2 million in funding each year, or 16% of its revenue, according to the organization’s 2018 annual report.

Nationally, Planned Parenthood serves 40% of the 4 million patients who receive care through Title X.

Planned Parenthood’s decision to withdraw from the program rather than comply with the new rule has been criticized by some anti-abortion advocates in Utah and elsewhere.

“Planned Parenthood has made a choice that reflects their priorities,” said Mary Taylor, president of Pro-Life Utah, in an email to the Deseret News. “If Planned Parenthood’s allegiance to abortion is greater than their desire to help disadvantaged women with real health care, there’s no doubt in my mind that other clinics or organizations will step in to provide those services.”

Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president and CEO of national Planned Parenthood, said the impact on low-income women could be significant in places like Utah.

“It will simply be impossible for other health centers to fill the gap,” McGill Johnson said. “Wait times for appointments will skyrocket.”

In a statement, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said Planned Parenthood knew months ago about the new restrictions and suggested that the group could have chosen at that point to exit the program.

“Some grantees are now blaming the government for their own actions — having chosen to accept the grant while failing to comply with the regulations that accompany it — and they are abandoning their obligations to serve patients under the program,” the department said.

Planned Parenthood Association of Utah clinics will remain open despite the loss of federal funding, according to Galloway. The organization “will do everything in our power to make sure that Utahns continue to have access to the same high-quality, affordable reproductive health care we have provided for nearly 50 years,” she said.

“Our doors are still open today, and they will be open tomorrow,” Galloway said. “We will do everything we can to make sure our patients don’t lose care.”

Contributing: Associated Press