Planned Parenthood's decision to walk away from about $60 million in annual Title X federal funding for low-income women's reproductive health care is a case study in how extreme the politics of abortion have become.
The nearly 50-year-old Title X program has been called the unsung hero of American public health, but on Monday Planned Parenthood, which serves about 40 percent of Title X patients in America, felt compelled to turn down the money rather than submit to cruel new rules.
Already, Planned Parenthood had to keep those funds separate from its work to help women obtain abortions. But the Trump administration's new family planning rule requires any facility that uses the Title X funding in any way to essentially pretend abortion or any referral to it is not legal.
The Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports reproductive rights, found that Title X clinics helped prevent more than 822,000 unintended pregnancies in 2015. The institute estimates that for every dollar the federal government spends on family planning, it saves more than $7. In 2017, Title X clinics served more than four million women, 42 percent of them uninsured.
Clearly the sides are set: The Trump administration is openly dedicated to knee-capping health care providers that perform abortions, and Planned Parenthood was its biggest target. Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, would rather take a huge financial hit and wage a high-profile fight with the Trump administration than change its practices.
The Atlantic put it well: "In this political environment, any money or policy that comes close to touching the abortion issue is fair game for war, no matter how many people lose access to health-care services as a result."
Planned Parenthood has nicknamed the new Trump guidelines a "gag rule," arguing that it would stop doctors from providing medical information to their patients. "Our patients come to us because they expect the best information and health care available," said Planned Parenthood's acting president and CEO, Alexis McGill Johnson, in a recent press call. "The gag rule would make it impossible for us to uphold that commitment. At Planned Parenthood, we refuse to cower to the Trump-Pence administration."
This comes as Republicans are increasingly targeting Roe v. Wade in the courts and in state governments. Red states such as Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama are in a race to the bottom to pass the most extreme anti-abortion laws in the nation.
Make no mistake: Trump's new family planning rule takes no prisoners. It threatens all women and all access to contraception and other health care for poor women — all in the name of gutting Roe v. Wade.
On the upside, withdrawing from Title X will not deprive Planned Parenthood of all government funding, a longtime goal of many conservatives. Planned Parenthood's 2017-18 annual report showed the organization received about $500 million from Medicaid, the joint federal and state health care program for low income people.
The lost $60 million in Title X funds? That's not an impossible amount of money to raise from the millions of people who believe a woman should have control over her body. Think of it this way: $60 from a million people, or $30 from two million. See how to help at plannedparenthood.org.