Proposed Changes To Title X To Ban Funding Abortions, Referrals

May 23, 2018

Rhode Island health clinics would be prohibited from providing abortion services or referrals if they receive federal Title X funds, under the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the family-planning program.

The federal Title X program provides nearly $1.2 million to eight community-based organizations operating 23 service sites throughout Rhode Island, according to the state health department, which administers the grants. The sites include Planned Parenthood of Southern New England as well as community and school-based health centers and a site at the adult women’s prison.

Title X funds contraception, STD screenings and other health services for low-income people in Rhode Island.  The proposed rules would require clinics that receive federal family planning funds to be physically separate from those that perform abortions. The rules also would eliminate a Title X requirement that providers counsel women with unintended pregnancies on all of their options, including abortion.  And the bill would prohibit providers at these clinics from making abortion referrals.

These requirements are similar to those in place, though never enforced, during Ronald Reagan's presidency. 

The changes would particularly impact Planned Parenthood, where Title X funds  free or reduced-cost health services to 1,800 to 2,000 patients in Rhode Island, or roughly a quarter of their patients, said Amanda Skinner, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, which serves Rhode Island and Connecticut.

“The people who are most in need of access to care -- who really don’t have a lot of places they can go-- are the people who are going to be impacted the most by this,’’ Skinner said.

If the new rules go into effect, she said, Planned Parenthood would be forced to give up Title X funding so it can continue to provide abortion services.  The organization also provides abortion services using nonfederal funds. In Rhode Island, Skinner said, Title X is a “relatively small” percent of the organization’s overall funding, compared with Connecticut, where it amounts to a “couple of million dollars.”

Opponents of abortion rights say abortions are not health care, and praised the administration for taking action to direct taxpayer dollars away from clinics that offer them. 

“The restoration of the original Title X rules will not cut a single dime from Title X family planning funds,” Barth Bracy, executive director of the Right to Life Committee, said in an e-mail. “Rather it will redirect these taxpayer dollars to Title X centers that do not perform or promote abortions, such as the many community health care centers throughout Rhode Island that provide comprehensive health care services for women, which Planned Parenthood does not.”