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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

The Trump Administration Is Trying to Change What Counts As 'Family Planning' For Federal Grants

Rae Ellen Bichell
Mountain West News Bureau
Title X funding received by state in fiscal year 2017. Dollar amounts are not available for 2018 grants.

During the 2017 fiscal year, our region received a collective $10 million in grant funding through a federal program called Title X, the brunt of it going to state health departments to support family planning services, especially for low-income and underserved patients.

Now the Trump administration is proposing changes to the program, which has been around for almost 50 years.

“The administration’s proposed changes to the program are really troubling and problematic,” says Kinsey Hasstedt, a senior policy manager with the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy organization focused on reproductive health that supports abortion rights. “The proposed rule would revive a series of changes called the ‘domestic gag rule,’ collectively.”

The rule would make it much harder for healthcare providers to talk about abortion as an option. On the flip side, it would eliminate the requirement that birth control methods be “medically approved.” Instead, providers could suggest abstinence until marriage and “fertility awareness” without bringing up other options with patients.

Title X was enacted in 1970 with strong bipartisan support.

“The champion on the Hill at the time was then-congressman George H.W. Bush, and it was signed into law by Nixon,” says Hasstedt.

The problem they were trying to address persists today.

“The idea is to help close the gap between folks who have more resources and those who have less in their ability to determine for themselves -- regardless of income or status -- whether and when to have children,” she says.

Hasstedt says that Title X money has never been available to fund abortions and says the proposed rule would undermine patients’ abilities to make informed choices.

A group of 16 medical professional groups, including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics, said in a joint statement said the rule would violate medical ethics and “turn back the clock on women’s health.”

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper also denounced the rule, saying it “would be detrimental to women’s health and economic security and lead to increases in unplanned pregnancies and abortions.”

The Guttmacher Institute estimates that in our region in 2015, Title X-funded clinics helped patients avoid a total of 27,100 unintended pregnancies and 9,100 abortions by offering contraceptive services.

The public comment period on the proposed rule ended July 31. The Trump administration must now consider the comments it received.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, Yellowstone Public Radio in Montana, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado. 

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