Health Care Providers Say Title X Change Would Restrict Access To Family Planning Services

May 18, 2018
Originally published on May 18, 2018 1:28 pm
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The Trump administration is considering a big change to how the government funds family planning. The program is known as Title X, and this change would stop clinics that receive these funds from performing abortions or referring patients to abortion providers. In Texas, health care providers say this move could make it harder for them to offer all kinds of family planning services. Ashley Lopez of member station KUT in Austin reports.

ASHLEY LOPEZ, BYLINE: The Trump administration wants to do what a lot of conservatives have been asking for decades, which is to detangle federal Title X funds from anything having to do with abortion. Kami Geoffray is the CEO of the Women's Health and Family Planning Association of Texas. She says details are a little hazy right now.

KAMI GEOFFRAY: Well, we haven't seen the new rule yet.

LOPEZ: The administration is giving a broad outline, but the full draft isn't in public yet. It's been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review. Geoffray runs Texas' Title X grantee that funds the state's roughly hundred clinics. She says currently clinics provide information about abortions for women who ask about them.

GEOFFRAY: They're able to offer information and education about what that may look like and offer a directory of services, including a phone number.

LOPEZ: But she says they don't make appointments for them, and Title X funds can't pay for abortions. The Trump administration wants even more separation, though. The proposed rule is expected to exclude funding for any clinics that also provide abortions as well as clinics that even refer women to them - in other words, Planned Parenthood. Texas has already cut state family planning funding from Planned Parenthood. Stacey Pogue with the Center for Public Policy Priorities says it hasn't gone well.

STACEY POGUE: The experiment we have run in Texas for now six or seven years shows us that excluding Planned Parenthood means fewer women get services and that fewer women get contraception.

LOPEZ: In fact, Pogue says those cuts to state funding have made Title X even more important in Texas.

POGUE: And it's likely that the Title X network and funding helped mitigate some of that harm, helped keep some clinics open that otherwise would have closed and kept points of access for women.

LOPEZ: In the years since Texas cut funding to family planning providers that also provide abortions, unplanned pregnancy rates have risen in the state. And that is particularly true among teens. Texas currently has the highest number of teen parents of any other state and has the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation. Kami Geoffray says Title X is particularly important in Texas because the state prohibits teens from getting contraception without parental consent.

GEOFFRAY: Title X's federal protections overlay that rule, and essentially that means that any minor that comes into our clinic - if they need to have confidential family planning services, they can receive them.

LOPEZ: In Texas, Geoffray says Title X also helps provide services to the large uninsured population which Geoffray says already has a hard time getting health care. The state also did not expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Texas' Republican attorney general recently sent a letter to federal health officials complaining about existing rules that require Title X clinics to provide a full range of options counseling, including abortion services. This rule change appears to take care of that concern. The proposed rule still has to go through a rule making process, so groups say they will watch what happens closely. For NPR News, I'm Ashley Lopez in Austin.

SHAPIRO: And this story is part of a reporting partnership with NPR, KUT and Kaiser Health News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.