The Lead

Pa. Attorney General Josh Shapiro joins lawsuit to block Trump restrictions on family planning program

By: - March 5, 2019 2:43 pm

By PBS NewsHour from Arlington, Va., USA – 082812_Planned Parenthood_006, CC BY 2.0, WikiMedia Commons

Pennsylvania is one of 21 states challenging tough, new Trump administration rules that would choke off the flow of millions of dollars in federal money to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that perform abortions or provide referrals for abortion.

The suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Ore., “[challenges] the legality of the Trump Administration’s new ‘gag rule’ that imposes several new restrictions on participants in the Title X family planning program,” Shapiro’s office said in a statement.

The filing comes a day after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a separate federal challenge to the administration’s rule change, The New York Times reported.

The administration’s rule change would affect more than 169,000 Pennsylvania patients, about 38 percent of whom are served by Planned Parenthood, the health organization’s political wing, Planned Parenthood PA Advocates, said in a statement.

The majority of those served by the Title X program are people of color or those who identify as Hispanic or Latino, Planned Parenthood PA Advocates said in its statement. Pennsylvania has the third highest number of Title X patients in the country.

In 2017, the state “received more than $13 million in Title X funding to support health care services for more than 200,000 patients across the commonwealth,” Shapiro’s office said.

“Pennsylvania is joining this suit to stop an unacceptable attempt by the Trump Administration to get between women and their doctors,” Shapiro said in his office’s statement. “Women deserve and depend on Title X clinics for essential healthcare services like contraception, preventive care, and cancer screenings, and they are entitled to accurate information about their reproductive choices. I denounced this move by HHS when it was announced two weeks ago, and today we are taking action to prevent the federal government from jeopardizing the healthcare of Pennsylvania women.”

According to Shapiro’s office, “Planned Parenthood is the largest Title X service provider in the Commonwealth, and is the only Title X provider in many parts of the state. In 2016, it operated 13 percent of Title-X funded centers (28 in total), but it cared for 36 percent of all Title X patients. For instance, in Bucks County — the fourth-largest county in the commonwealth — all of the Title X clinics are operated by Planned Parenthood.”

The new rule requires “physical and financial separation” between providers that perform abortions and clinics that don’t. The Trump administration has justified the change as an “effort to ensure that taxpayers do not fund the abortion industry in violation of the law.”

In an op-ed for the Capital-Star, Sari Stevens, the executive director of Planned Parenthood PA Advocates, the organization’s political wing, called the rule “an attack on the most vulnerable.”

“Despite the fact that Tile X already bars its funds from being used for abortion services, the rule also imposes cost prohibitive and unnecessary ‘physical separation’ requirements on health centers that also provide abortion in an effort to stop Planned Parenthood from participating in Title X,” Stevens wrote.

The new requirements “could include forcing health centers to build separate entrances and exits, construct new health centers, or hire a second staff of doctors, nurses, and administrative staff. None of these requirements contribute to the health of patients,” Stevens wrote.

The other states in the lawsuit include Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. It is being led by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and New York Attorney General Letitia James, Shapiro’s office said.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.