Planned Parenthood says 42,000 in Michigan at risk from abortion ‘gag rule’

Doctor counseling patient

Abortion-rights advocates worry that new rules by the Trump administration would interfere with doctor-patient relationships and deny patients critical information on health care choices. (Shutterstock image)

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Planned Parenthood said Monday it would withdraw from a longstanding federal funding program for low-income patients -‒ including patients in Michigan ‒- citing what it called “unfair” gag rules that would forbid its clinics from making abortion referrals.  

The loss of funding threatens a range of health care ‒ from family planning to wellness visits to cancer screenings ‒ for millions of Americans, including 42,000 in Michigan, Planned Parenthood said. 

The new rules, hailed by abortion opponents, were announced earlier this year.

Providers such as Planned Parenthood have long been prohibited from using federal funds to provide abortions. Under the new rules, providers receiving federal aid for low-income and uninsured patients, known as Title X funds, also cannot “promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.”

Abortion-rights advocates have argued that such a restriction intrudes on the doctor-patient relationship and compels providers to withhold critical information from patients.

“Unfortunately, the new gag rule that is being enforced by the Trump-Pence administration makes it impossible to provide comprehensive care and information to our patients consistent with medical ethics and our evidence-based standards of care,” Lori Carpentier, President & CEO of Planned Parenthood of Michigan, said in a statement.

Carpentier said Planned Parenthood of Michigan refuses “to let the Trump administration bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients in Michigan”; she called the rule “unethical and dangerous.”

The new rule also dictates that any provider accepting Title X funds makes a “financial and physical separation” between facilities where an abortion is performed and where other services are provided with Title X funds.

Planned Parenthood officials said low-income patients in some areas of the state will now be left with no choice for free or low-cost health care without the Title X funds. County health departments also receive those funds, but may not be able to absorb patients who may be diverted from Planned Parenthood clinics, the group said. 

Planned Parenthood’s national office said it is “working to make sure all Planned Parenthood patients can still get the health care they need” and it advised patients to contact their local offices to see how much their health care needs will cost.

Genevieve Marnon, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, which opposes abortion, said any threat to health care services is a strategic move based on ideology, rather than budget realities. Public health clinics also receive federal Title X funds, she said, and don’t provide abortions.

“You know, [Planned Parenhood] claim[s] to be a woman’s health care provider, and yet they don’t want to provide Title X services, which includes family planning, because they also can’t promote abortion,” Marnon said. “It’s a choice that Planned Parenthood wants to make, but it’s not about the money … This is an ideological choice in my opinion.”

Established in 1970, the Title X program funds services to about 4 million people each year, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Nationally, Planned Parenthood provides services to about 40 percent of those low-income recipients, according to its national office.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Attorney General Dana Nessel ‒ both abortion-rights Democrats ‒ joined a coalition of 20 other states, as well as the American Medical Association, in a lawsuit earlier this year challenging the new rule in U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon. 

Michigan patients receive about $7 million in Title X funds for care at 93 clinic sites in 72 out of 83 counties in Michigan, according to the state. Planned Parenthood said it receives about $4.2 million of that money.

Late Monday, Whitmer issued a statement calling the Trump administration rule change “a clear attempt to force expert health care providers out of our program for safe, affordable birth control and take away women’s right to choose. Every person deserves to make their own decisions about their health care. “

In Michigan, Planned Parenthood provides comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services for the majority of all Title X patients, or about 70 percent. In some counties, there is “no other option for the high quality, low- or no-cost reproductive health care and birth control that Title X providers guarantee,” according to the group. 

Monday’s announcement is the latest development in an emotional national debate that has exploded this year, following a rightward shift on the U.S. Supreme Court with last year’s appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh. The change stoked conservatives’ hopes of reversing Roe v. Wade, the high court’s 1973 decision that made abortion legal nationwide.

Lawmakers in Lansing and other statehouses controlled by Republican majorities have debated dramatic restrictions on abortion. In May, the GOP-controlled Michigan Legislature voted to ban a common second-trimester procedure known as dilation and evacuation, which abortion opponents refer to as “dismemberment abortion.” 

Whitmer vowed to veto the bill.

In response, Michigan Right to Life launched an effort in June to collect 400,000 signatures that will allow lawmakers to make changes to Michigan’s abortion law, bypassing the promised veto. Marnon, of Right to Life, said Monday that signatures continue to be collected daily.

Following Monday’s announcement, Whitmer reiterated that she will veto legislation that “restricts women’s autonomy over their own bodies, including the harmful bills passed earlier this year that would ban a safe procedure that has saved women’s lives.” 

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Tue, 08/20/2019 - 10:03am

Sigh....once again, people advocating for something they know absolutely nothing about except fetus murdering is a sin. Abortion is repugnant but legally, the rights of two entities are involved - those of the mother and, at some stage of the pregnancy, those of the fetus. Neuroscientists have concluded that a fetus has developed nerve fibers that conduct pain around 26 weeks (two weeks leeway ). I doubt that any legalistic code would allow the rights of the fetus to subsume those of the mother or assigning more rights to the not yet living than to the already living. And then there must be exceptions to the 24 week rule (to allow abortion) because fetal abnormalities incompatible with life may not be diagnosed until later in the pregnancy. No woman should be forced to carry a fetus doomed to die .
If women are denied abortion, they will do it themselves returning us to the dark days of awful infections required hospitalization. And lastly, we don't have enough foster homes for all the unwanted and abused kids in Michigan. We are just starting to have difficulty even finding homes for newborns even. So I don't take much stock in what "pro-lifers" have to say unless they have fostered and adopted children. Otherwise, just keep your mouth shut because you have no moral standing. The homes children are removed from , well all I can say is that the conditions kids are living in is unimaginable for those naive people who don't work in the social services or in a hospital. No one wants to pay more taxes so who will pay for all the services these unwanted kids will need during their lives? They require medical, psychological and then often end up in jails. Wake up, America, to the amount of pain created in the world when children are forced to have babies because of some naive ideology created from what? Someone's Bible? We can't base law on one religious group's interpretation of the law.

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 10:10am

Right to Life and its companion, the Catholic church, are the biggest terrorist organizations in Michigan. Politicians should not be allowed to dictate medical decisions, nor should any organization be allowed to force its opinions into law. And this is from one who thinks Attila the Hun was a flaming liberal.

Tue, 08/20/2019 - 5:03pm

"Right to Life and its companion, the Catholic church, are the biggest terrorist organizations in Michigan." Wow, this type of hyperbole sounds like something typically heard out of the hard left, please specify. Since this whole PP issue is largely boils down to whether taxpayers should fund abortions, is this now spending that you approve of?

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 7:37pm

Title X funding was never used for abortions. No federal funding was used for abortions. Taxpayers dont pay for abortions. Can i be any clearer? Stop spreading lies to help your cause.

Doug L
Tue, 08/20/2019 - 10:10am

If PP is really promoting women's health care, not promoting abortion, they should not have a problem. Title X rules state :
"Removes the requirement for abortion referral, replacing it with a prohibition on referral for abortion as a method of FAMILY PLANNING.
Permits, but no longer requires, nondirective pregnancy counseling, including on abortion.
Requires referrals for those conditions deemed medically necessary."
Since the only restrictions are on abortion referrals as a method of family planning, and referrals are required when medically necessary, this would seem consistent with the ruling that federal funds should not be used for abortion.

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 9:53am

It is sad how the extreme left just wants to twist the truth. Thanks Doug, hopefully people will take time to understand what is really going on instead of the media and PP's propaganda crap.

Mon, 08/26/2019 - 7:57pm

Doug's the one twisting the truth. How about it if men would butt out of women's healthcare and worry about themselves. I used planned parenthood when i was young for birth control, std testing, treatment, pap smears and so did everyone else I knew. My daughter uses it now for birth control and whatever else is her personal business. Thank God in His mater plan for creating Planned Parenthood to help females with health and reproductive issues. Find something else to be mad about and leave P.P alone. You are clueless.

Jonah 4
Tue, 08/20/2019 - 10:34am

What a gag on a non profit that provides a variety of health care to women and, in some cases, to men. There are very, very limited options for the people who get their care through Planned Parenthood and once that option is gone, there are no replacements despite the claptrap of the head of Right to Life of Michigan. Come to think of it, Right to Life only cares if the fetus is born. After that they don't give one hoot about the health, etc. of either the child or the mother. I have never seen Right to Life promoting health care for children and mothers after the child is born. Right to Life is totally absent. What a destructive organization.

Jim C
Tue, 08/20/2019 - 12:02pm

Planned Parenthood has declared that they can make more money selling baby parts than they make from federal grants

abe bubush
Thu, 08/22/2019 - 9:23am

That is a lie. It is your lie. It is a fabrication by you, a liar.

Wed, 08/21/2019 - 9:47am

How could any intelligent person think abortion was family planning?

Craig Reynolds
Wed, 08/21/2019 - 8:50pm

"Genevieve Marnon, legislative director for Right to Life of Michigan, which opposes abortion, said any threat to health care services is a strategic move based on ideology." Yeah, Lady, and it's your goddam Bible-implanted ideology that's causing all this political and personal mess regarding women having control over their own bodies, a religiosity that Republicans handsomely profit by in every election