This is akin to finding out that Dan Hedaya was Keyser Soze. The years-long effort to defund Planned Parenthood may have finally succeeded, the Daily Beast reported over the weekend, because the nation’s leading abortion mill may refuse to take the money. A new rule prohibiting abortion counseling and referrals from Title X providers will remain in place, and Planned Parenthood management may refuse to participate as long as it does — which they have to decide today:
Despite years of fighting calls to “defund Planned Parenthood,” the reproductive healthcare organization may now voluntarily remove itself from a massive government funding program, after a federal appeals court allowed a controversial new abortion rule to go forward.
For months, Planned Parenthood has been battling a new Trump administration rule that bars taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from talking with their patients about abortion, or referring them to abortion providers. Planned Parenthood deemed the measure a “gag rule” and said it would pull out of Title X—the program that administers the funds—rather than comply with the new regulations. …
In a statement, Planned Parenthood leadership said they would consider their options and announce next steps on Monday. “We refuse to cower to this president,” acting PPFA President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson said. “The gag rule is unethical, dangerous, and we will not subject our patients to it.”
At issue are two decisions by the Ninth Circuit over the rule change, both of which favor the Trump administration. Planned Parenthood sued to overturn the rule, but the appellate court initially decided that the rule could be enforced while Planned Parenthood’s legal challenge proceeded, refusing to impose a temporary restraining order. Planned Parenthood then demanded an en banc hearing of that decision, but the court denied the request — unanimously, it seems:
“The full court has been advised of the motions for full court en banc reconsideration and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter as a full en banc court,” Chief Judge Sidney Thomas wrote in the brief order Friday. “The motions for full court en banc reconsideration are denied.”
Friday’s ruling leaves Planned Parenthood to decide whether it will follow through with its promised departure from the program, which could come on Monday. That’s the deadline for providers participating in Title X to provide compliance assurance to HHS regarding the rule.
Why didn’t Planned Parenthood appeal directly to the Supreme Court? Come on, man. If the Ninth Circuit can’t find a reason to block a Trump administration policy, what chance did an appeal to the Supreme Court have? That’s what makes this statement on the denial for an en banc hearing so interesting. Planned Parenthood couldn’t get even one judge on the Ninth Circuit to vote to rehear their case. That’s not exactly a vote of confidence in their argument on the merits.
On Thursday, before the denial of the en banc request, Planned Parenthood sounded a defiant note:
Unless the Ninth Circuit intervenes, the gag rule will destroy the Title X program — putting birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment at risk for millions of people struggling to make ends meet. #ProtectX https://t.co/flzI8sesl0
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) August 15, 2019
They also issued a letter earlier in the month, claiming that if the rule remained in place, they would “have no option but to withdraw from the Title X program.” HHS issued a letter in response essentially daring them to do so:
“If the seven Planned Parenthood direct grantees insist on providing abortion referrals even within a federally funded program, and feel so strongly that they would withdraw from the program and the public they serve, that is their own choice, not a consequence of the Rule,” attorneys for HHS wrote.
Planned Parenthood predicted their withdrawal would create the demise of Title X, but that’s nonsense. The government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on contraception through the program, the kind of demand that creates supply organically. If Planned Parenthood exits the program, other clinics will open to fill the gap — clinics that will comply with the rule not to provide abortion counseling or referrals but stick to contraception, which is Title X’s mission in the first place. There may be some disruption in the short term, but that would be within Planned Parenthood’s power to fix by complying with the rule.
What Planned Parenthood wants to do is to hold women hostage in order to dictate terms to the Trump administration and to set the rules themselves. That’s not how regulatory policy works, or at least not how it’s supposed to work. Corporations don’t get to hold social programs hostage to further their profit goals. Imagine the outcry if McDonalds attempted to block food stamps unless the government allowed EBT sales at its restaurants.
Planned Parenthood will have to decide today whether it will turn down those hundreds of millions of dollars every year, or whether it will comply with the rules. Having climbed this far out on the limb, it will be tough to retreat — but equally tough to saw the limb off, too. They may just choose to defund themselves and save conservatives the trouble, which might be the most popular move that organization will have done with those on the Right in their long existence. And let’s not forget that Donald Trump’s decision to impose this rule is what’s forcing Planned Parenthood to make this decision — and letting Congress off the hook for it, too.
Update: They’re officially out:
Planned Parenthood said Monday it will withdraw from the federal Title X program that helps low-income people access contraception rather than comply with what it calls a new Trump administration “gag rule” that prohibits it from providing abortion referrals to those patients.
The announcement comes amid a protracted legal battle with the White House over changes to the nearly 50-year-old Title X program, which annually provides $286 million to healthcare providers to fund family planning services such as birth control. The administration required grantees to explain by Monday how they would comply with the new rule.
The decision by Planned Parenthood — which gets about $60 million in funding — is the latest in a years-long battle between abortion rights supporters and Republicans, who have advocated to eliminate all federal funding for abortion providers and to “defund” Planned Parenthood.
They could still win this case when it comes to trial. However, until that happens, Planned Parenthood has cut itself off from Title X funds, essentially giving Trump his “defund” victory.