Planned Parenthood officially withdrew from Title X funding last month. The Trump Administration added new restrictions to the federal family planning grant earlier this year, mandating that grant recipients such as Planned Parenthood that offer family planning services and provide abortions must physically separate the services. In other words, have different buildings for health screenings and abortions. New rules also prohibit grant recipients from counseling or referring for abortions, dubbed the “gag rule.”

Planned Parenthood said it was both cost prohibitive and medically stigmatizing, and opted to leave the funding program rather than comply. Grant recipients vary across the country and have long separated services in terms of funding – Title X has never funded abortions. Planned Parenthood, the largest recipient until last month, says abortions and other family planning services such as contraceptive access and cancer screenings qualify as reproductive health care and shouldn’t be siloed or stigmatized. 

Some states like Mississippi lump all Title X grant funds under one umbrella – here, all funds come through the Mississippi State Department of Health and stay in state-operated clinics. Because the state health department does not provide abortions, they are not directly affected by the rule changes. The state’s one Planned Parenthood in Hattiesburg also does not provide abortions. Felicia Brown-Williams, of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said its patients will not be affected directly. However, she advises patients to check whether the benefits they’re receiving are funded by Title X, and to know all of their options. She believes the new rule will exacerbate existing disparities in health care access.

“At Planned Parenthood, we believe that a pregnant person is the only one that should make decisions about their bodily autonomy, and your zip code should not determine your ability to access health care. Mississippians have borne the full brunt of the policies that got us here, and our health indicators tell a disturbing story of the terrible outcomes that come with reducing access to care. This decision is about whether it is ethical to withhold information from patients, and Planned Parenthood believes it is unethical to do so no matter where you live.”

– Felicia Brown-Williams, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Mississippi director

The round up is a section in our monthly women and girls newsletter, The Inform[H]er.

 
 

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Erica Hensley

Erica Hensley

Erica Hensley, a native of Atlanta, has been working as an investigative reporter focusing on public health for Mississippi Today since May 2018. She is a Knight Foundation fellow for our newsroom’s collaboration with local TV station WLBT and curates The Inform[H]er, our monthly women and girls’ newsletter. She is the 2019 recipient of the Doris O'Donnell Innovations in Investigative Journalism Fellowship. Erica received a bachelor’s in print journalism and political science from the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and a master’s in health and medical journalism from the University of Georgia Grady College for Journalism and Mass Communication.