Washington state to exit Title X family planning program

The Washington Department of Health announced on Thursday it will exit the Title X family planning program, following the Trump Administration’s rule restricting abortion services. 

In June 2018, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department published a proposed set of changes to the Title X family planning program.

The new rule prohibits Title X-funded providers from referring their patients to abortion providers, and allows providers to refuse to council and advise their patients on information regarding abortion. The rule also requires physical separation between family planning portions of a clinic and any abortion services.

 

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Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit in March challenging the rule, based on several statutory and constitutional arguments. In April, a federal judge granted a nationwide preliminary injunction on the rule, but a three-judge Ninth Circuit panel stayed the injunction pending appeal.  

Then at the end of July, the Washington State Department of Health sent a letter notifying the Trump Administration that the state would continue offering “the full range of family planning and reproductive health care services” under Title X without the use of federal funds. The state stopped using federal funds prior to July 15, and stated that it will continue to do so until there is a final resolution of the legal challenge.

HHS came back with an ultimatum on Wednesday, telling state officials that if they didn’t comply with the new rules by Friday, they no longer can remain in the program and that the state’s ability to receive future federal funding would be hindered.

On Thursday, the DOH announced the state would exit the Title X program entirely. In a letter to HHS, DOH representatives wrote,

“The State of Washington is gravely disappointed in HHS’s deliberate decision to force us and many other longstanding grantees out of the Title X program… And we would have continued this vital work for many years to come if not for HHS’s choice to forsake its commitment to comprehensive reproductive health care by implementing these unlawful and harmful new rules.”

Title X provides funding for 16 organizations and 85 clinics across Washington. In 2017, the state received approximately $4 million in Title X funds from the federal government – accounting for about one-third of the state’s family planning funds.

“The Trump administration’s attack on women’s rights is unprecedented. Washington state is fighting back with equally unprecedented resolve. Late yesterday, the administration sent us an untenable ultimatum that forces Washington state out of the Title X program. We will not be bullied. We will not be coerced. We will not be blackmailed and threatened. Reproductive health care is basic health care. And it’s one of the most necessary and fundamental rights of a just and equitable democracy,” Governor Jay Inslee said at a press conference with Planned Parenthood on Thursday.

Several other states including Oregon, Maine, and Illinois have decided to either withdraw or put a hold on drawing down Title X funds.