The Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title X would prohibit grant recipients from performing, promoting, referring for or supporting abortions as a method of family planning, prompting a variety of responses from University of Minnesota scholars and advocates.
Title X is the only federal family-planning grant program to offer family planning services, providing for nearly 4 million clients each year. It prioritizes the needs of low-income and underinsured families, including those who are ineligible for Medicaid. The new federal regulations were published last week and will be effective May 3.
The new rule requires a distinct financial and physical separation between programs providing services funded by Title X and those providing abortions. Multiple lawsuits are currently underway to overturn the sweeping changes.
Rachel Hardeman, assistant professor in health policy and management at the University of Minnesota, believes the new rule could force facilities like Planned Parenthood and other clinics that provide abortions and other services to forgo Title X funding. Planned Parenthood receives $60 million per year through the program.
"It’s an issue of reproductive justice and health equity. Denying patients who are disproportionately poor, young and of racial [and] ethnic minorities access to reproductive health services is an injustice and an act of violence," Hardeman said.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the changes ensure recipients are compliant with Title X rules and will allow a greater number to receive services through the program. Providers can still discuss abortions but are no longer required to, opening funding for clinics that don't provide abortions.
Students are split on the issue.
“Abortion is not a form of birth control and Planned Parenthood has been preying on innocent women by disguising their abortion services as reproductive rights or women's health care,” said Nick Johnson, president of the anti-abortion group UMN Students for Human Life.
The group opposes abortion, saying it ends the life of a human being. Johnson said life begins at conception and, at that stage, should have protection equal to that of other human beings.
However, J’Mag Karbeah, Ph.D. student in public health policy and management, said abortion access and abortion care are essential family planning services for women.
“The recent decisions ... pose a serious threat to the health and well-being of many women and families in our county,” Karbeah said. "Not only will this action disproportionately impact lower income people, but it is a direct affront to reproductive justice.”
Karbeah said seeking information about abortion services is not an easy decision for women to make. She said many women who seek the services already have children at home and would like to provide them with the highest quality of care.
“In addition to restricting access to necessary health services, this legislation also attempts to regulate the reproductive decisions that women are allowed to make,” Karbeah said. “We know that, historically, bans on abortion do not prevent women from seeking these services, it only prevents women from doing so safely.”