By Tom Strode
WASHINGTON (BP) — One of Planned Parenthood's government revenue streams has officially dried up for now.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) confirmed Monday, Aug. 19 it would not abide by the Trump administration's new rule that prohibits federal family planning funds for organizations that perform, promote, or refer for abortions. The decision – which had been expected for weeks and was announced at the deadline set by the administration – means PPFA will forfeit $50 to $60 million a year in order to conduct business as usual as the country's No. 1 abortion provider.
The loss of funding through Title X, the federal government's family planning program, will result in about a 10 percent decrease in government money for Planned Parenthood – at least while a court challenge is under way. PPFA and its affiliates collected $563.8 million in government grants and reimbursements in its latest financial year. The abortion giant performed more than 332,757 abortions during the most recent year for which statistics are available.
Three days before PPFA's announcement, an Arizona jury awarded a former Planned Parenthood employee $3 million for wrongful termination after she had shared health and safety warnings with supervisors.
Federal defunding of PPFA – which reported $1.88 billion in net assets in its latest report – has long been a goal of pro-life organizations, and leaders of the movement applauded news of Planned Parenthood's withdrawal from Title X.
Withdrawal from Title X "shows what is truly important to: Care for women is expendable, but abortion is not," said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
"At the same time, this new rule from the Department of Health and Human Services is a welcome move not only because it reveals Planned Parenthood's sad business model but also because it is an important step in separating taxpayer dollars from the abortion industry," Moore said in written comments for Baptist Press.
... this new rule ... is a welcome move not only because it reveals Planned Parenthood's sad business model but also because it is an important step in separating taxpayer dollars from the abortion industry.Russell Moore
"Since its announcement, we have worked to make sure the rule remained strong as we continued to call upon Congress to take legislative action," he said. "We will continue to be tireless in our witness for life, praying for the day when we as a country repent of ever propping up this storefront of death."
Chelsea Sobolik, a policy director for the ERLC, told BP in written remarks, "As Planned Parenthood continues to highlight the fact that abortion is its most important service, we will continue making the case for legislative action to cut all federal funding to this abortion industry leader. I'm grateful for any rule that protects life, and I hope this recent announcement will save the lives of thousands of precious little ones in the womb."
One of the ERLC's priorities in its 2019 legislative agenda has been the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Messengers to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention's annual meeting adopted a resolution calling for the elimination of money for Planned Parenthood at all levels of government. It also denounced the organization's "immoral agenda and practices."
Planned Parenthood "showed its true colors by prioritizing abortion over family planning," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, in a written release. "This is a huge win for women's health."
PFFA, meanwhile, attacked the new regulation.
Planned Parenthood "showed its true colors by prioritizing abortion over family planning."Marjorie Dannenfelser
Alexis McGill Johnson, PPFA's acting president, described the Protect Life Rule – the name it has become known by – as "an unethical and dangerous gag rule."
"At Planned Parenthood, we refuse to cower to the Trump-Pence administration," Johnson said. She called for Congress to pass legislation to block the new rule.
The final regulation, issued in February by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), bars the use of Title X money "to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning."
The rule requires "clear financial and physical separation" between Title X programs and non-Title X programs in which abortion is promoted as a method of family planning.
The Reagan administration issued a regulation that was similar to the Protect Life Rule in the 1980s, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld it in 1991.
The Clinton administration rescinded that rule, however.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled in a 7-4 decision July 11 the administration can enforce the regulation while it is being legally challenged. Meeting "en banc" or as a full court, the Ninth Circuit denied emergency motions to block an order from a three-judge panel of the same court that stayed preliminary injunctions barring the rule's enforcement.
The Ninth Circuit is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case Sept. 23.
Planned Parenthood, the American Medical Association, and more than 20 states were among the parties that filed lawsuits in March to block the new HHS rule. Federal judges had blocked enforcement of the regulation before the Ninth Circuit granted the Trump administration's request for a stay enabling the rule to be enforced.
The new HHS regulation does not prohibit nondirective counseling regarding abortion, but it ends the requirement that Title X recipients must provide abortion counseling and referral. It also does not reduce Title X funds. Title X serves about four million Americans – those of low income in particular.
On Aug. 16, a Maricopa County jury granted a $3 million award to Mayra Rodriguez in her lawsuit against Planned Parenthood Arizona (PPA), where she was serving as a clinic administrator, The Arizona Republic reported.
After her firing in 2017, Rodriguez alleged the action was taken because of several complaints she made to supervisors about medical and business practices, according to The Republic. Her suit said Rodriguez was concerned about "substantial health, welfare, and safety risks" to patients, the newspaper reported.
Various scandals have plagued Planned Parenthood the last two decades. Most recently, undercover videos were released beginning in 2015 that reportedly provided evidence the organization was trading in body parts from aborted babies.
EDITOR'S NOTE: This story was updated with quotes from Russell Moore and Chelsea Sobolik after it was originally posted Aug. 20.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service.
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