Last Monday, Planned Parenthood announced that it would withdraw from the federal Title X family planning program. The reason is that they are unwilling to comply with the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule, which prevents Title X grantees from co-locating with abortion facilities or doing abortion referrals.
However, contrary to the statement by Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood was not forced out of the program. Planned Parenthood was still eligible for Title X funds and could even continue to talk to women about abortion in a non-directive manner.
The Protect Life Rule simply prevented them from either referring women to an abortion facility, including their own, or suggesting where to obtain an abortion. By choosing not to abide by this rule, Planned Parenthood forfeited their eligibility for federal Title X funds.
Unsurprisingly, the Trump administration’s policy received a rush of criticism from a number of Democratic elected officials. On Twitter, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren accused the Trump administration of “deliberately obstructing low-income people’s access to basic health care services.” Similarly, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar said that “The President is jeopardizing the health of millions of people.” Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker stated that “In Illinois, we have not and will not support this gag rule.” Additionally, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, California Rep. Norma Torres, and Texas Rep. Sylvia Garcia, all went online to express opposition to the rule.
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However, recent history from the state of Texas shows that these dire health predictions are misguided. When the Texas legislature excluded Planned Parenthood from its state family planning grants in 2011, they too faced a great deal of opposition. A Legislative Budget Board analysis predicted an increase of over 20,000 unplanned births. Similarly, a Guttmacher Institute analysis predicted that in the absence of these family planning grants, abortions in Texas would increase by 22%.
Health care providers expressed similar concerns. Regina Rogoff, CEO of People’s Community Clinic in central Texas, said, “The real-world effects of attacking women’s health will soon be devastatingly clear in Texas.” Similarly, Fran Hagerty, CEO of the Women’s Health and Family Planning Association of Texas, predicted increases in both unintended pregnancies and abortions.
Since that time, all of these predictions have proven false. Nothing of the sort has happened. Between 2011 and 2017 — the most recent year for which data is available from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control — the minor birth rate (ages 13-17) in Texas fell by over 49% and the minor abortion rate fell by over 57%. The total number of abortions performed on Texas women, both in-state and out-of-state, fell by 24%.
Additionally, the overall birth rate has exhibited little change and there is no evidence of a sharp increase in the rate of unintended pregnancies. Overall, Texas’ experience this decade has made it clear that positive public health outcomes are certainly possible without requiring taxpayers to fork over millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood every year.
Furthermore, the Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule will likely improve public health outcomes. The Protect Life Rule does not cut any funds from family planning programs. Title X funds would still be available to thousands of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), which offer a much wider range of health care services. Unlike Planned Parenthood clinics, for example, FQHCs offer mammograms. They also see far more prenatal patients and conduct more cervical cancer screenings.
Additionally, there are relatively few Planned Parenthood clinics in rural areas. As such, making these Title X funds available to Federally Qualified Health Care Centers will expand access to care for thousands of women.
Taxpayers should not have to subsidize abortion. Defunding facilities that perform abortions is an important policy goal for pro-lifers and taxpayers generally. In addition to the Protect Life Rule, Trump has strengthened the Mexico City policy, ensuring that taxpayers are not subsidizing organizations that promote or perform abortions overseas. Even though Title X funds did not directly pay for abortions, money is fungible, and these funds subsidized abortion procedures and promotion indirectly. Furthermore, a significant body of academic research shows that subsidizing abortions increases abortion rates. Overall, Planned Parenthood is America’s number one abortion provider, ending the lives of over 320,000 innocent unborn children every year. The Trump administration’s Protect Life Rule is a key first step toward eliminating all taxpayer funding of organizations that profit from abortion.
LifeNews Note: Michael J. New is an Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. He is a former political science professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University.