Washington officials blast Trump's Title X gag rule

State, Planned Parenthood exit federal family planning program

Washington officials blast Trump's Title X gag rule

Washington officials blast Trump's Title X gag rule

Washington is among a handful of states that, at least for now, will be able to maintain women’s health services following its exit from the federal Title X program.

The action was taken following a new rule imposed by the Trump administration that would end Title X funding for any participating organization that provides clients or refers them to abortion services.

Planned Parenthood announced its withdrawal from the Title X program, which provides funding for contraception, cancer screenings, pregnancy tests and other family planning services, on Aug. 19.

Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI), said state support to backfill the loss of funding from exiting the Title X program means services will not be impacted.

The Legislature will need to approve additional funds next session. The state’s exit amounts to a $4 million hole to fill to maintain services at their current levels.

Family planning funding will get Planned Parenthood and other clinics in the state through to mid-March, said Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman during an Aug. 22 news conference inside the Planned Parenthood Lee Minto Center on East Madison Street. Washington state currently provides $9 million in family planning funding annually through DOH.

The state Department of Health sent a letter to the federal government announcing its withdrawal from the Title X program just prior to the news conference, Wiesman said, because of the same threats of losing funding for noncompliance with the gag rule.

Charbonneau called the Trump administration’s gag rule for Title X funding unconscionable and illegal. PPGNHI serves around 90,000 Title X patients in Washington, which amounts to roughly 40 percent of the 4 million women served by the program nationwide. Charbonneau said there should be no surprise when abortion rates spike due to reduced access to contraception and sexual education.

“We’ll continue to fight this administration, because everyone deserves a fundamental right to health care, and our government should be focused on expanding health care access, not restricting it. Planned Parenthood and the other providers in Washington state are no more for sale to this bullying government than Greenland.”

There are 18 family planning clinics in King County, and PPGNHI operates seven of those health centers.

“Over the past decade, we have reduced the teen birthrate in King County by 68 percent,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine, making it one of the lowest in the nation. “And Title X has helped us get there by reaching women in need, women at the highest risk.”

Constantine said he refuses to see the historically low teen birthrate reversed by the actions of the Trump administration, and the county will continue to push for more local and state funding.

Title X patient and PPGNHI volunteer Emilia Barnecut recounted how a doctor dismissed her stomach pains as a period symptom. Through Planned Parenthood, Barnecut said, she was able to get an accurate diagnosis, which was an ovarian cyst. She now takes medication and has access to birth control, she said, highlighting the quality of care provided through Planned Parenthood.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, who officially dropped out of the 2020 presidential race early Thursday, was joined by Attorney General Bob Ferguson in denouncing the gag rule and vowing to continue a legal challenge against the Trump administration.

“It is a sad fact, but it is a true fact that an American president is involved in an attack on women’s rights is unprecedented, and so Washington state is fighting back,” said Inslee, calling the gag rule “forced malpractice.”

Ferguson said there will be a hearing before a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel on Sept. 23, where attorneys will argue to have an injunction reinstated to block the rule change. The U.S. District Court in Yakima granted a nationwide injunction in late April, which the Ninth Circuit removed on June 20.

“If we lose, we’re simply right back where we started, which is before the trial court in the Eastern District of Washington,” Ferguson said.

The Washington Attorney General’s Office has won 21 legal challenges against the Trump administration.

“We have not lost a case yet against this administration,” Ferguson said. “I can tell you, we sure as hell don’t plan on starting with this case.”

The day before the Ninth Circuit court removed the injunction, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a spending package bill with language that would block the gag rule.

U.S. Congresswoman Suzan DelBene said during the news conference that there is a battle ahead in the Senate, and she knows Washington Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray are strong women’s health supporters.

“We need to show them that women will not be intimidated and they will not be defeated,” DelBene said.