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The Trump administration intends to limit the Title X program that provides birth control and other reproductive health services. Under the new restrictions, any clinic accepting federal funds would be prevented from performing abortions -- or referring women to other providers for the procedure. William Brangham talks to Doreen Denny of Concerned Women for America, who supports the new policy.
A new rule from the Trump administration would change what kinds of family planning clinics can receive federal funding. It is being celebrated by conservative anti-abortion groups and raising alarms among abortion rights organizations. William Brangham explains:
The rule change involves Title X, the federal program providing birth control and reproductive health care to an estimated four million low-income women.
The new rule says any group receiving Title X money has to be physically and financially separate from any group that provides or refers women for abortions. Currently, those funds can't be used to provide abortions, but they can go to organizations that offer the procedure.
Critics contend this rule would essentially zero out groups like Planned Parenthood. The administration and conservative groups counter that they simply want to support centers that put greater emphasis on natural family planning and abstinence counseling.
We start with first of two views.
Doreen Denny is senior director of government relations for Concerned Women of America.
Welcome to the "NewsHour."
Thank you, William.
So, I know your organization was strongly supportive of this rule change. Why do you think it's a good idea?
Well, it's important to realize the Title 10 program from inception made was very clear that abortion is not a method of family planning.
And so this rule is just another opportunity to make that statutory reality — restriction a reality. And I think it's important that people understand that the family planning program, the contraception, the education, the other screenings, the other things that are really important for women and for low-income women, for any woman, will continue to be the — really the bedrock of what this is all about.
And so we're now going to be in a place where organizations that may have commingled those activities are going to have to make a choice.
I mean, the main organization you're talking about here is Planned Parenthood.
They'd argue that this is an attempt to zero them out. And they argue that what happens to all the other services that they provide in communities with lots of low-income women? Are there enough groups that could fill the gap if they suddenly have to go away? Do you worry that that's a possible concern?
Well, I don't worry, because, right now, we have federally qualified health centers all over the country that could be a part of this program and do provide services through the Title X program.
We have other organizations that have applied. And maybe they haven't been the ones that have been selected, but are just as qualified. Remember, this is a small amount of federal dollars, you know, considering the amount of health services that go out for family planning in communities, whether through the states or other organizations.
Do you think that organizations — some of the organizations you're describing might be these so-called crisis pregnancy centers, which really try to talk women out of having an abortion.
Do you think that those organizations should have access to federal money?
Well, I think that it's important that all types of providers that want to serve women and do what's best for their health and well-being and the health of their child would be a part of this program.
I don't necessarily either — would even characterize them as talking women out of abortion. I think we want to provide real, honest information about what abortion is. And, unfortunately, I think that Planned Parenthood has made abortion the bedrock of their business.
And because of that, that's just what they do. And that's what they're known for. But it may not be the right thing for every woman who maybe is in an unintended pregnancy situation.
But the Title X program needs to be very clear in its mission. And its mission is to provide family planning services that do not consider abortion a method of family planning.
As you say, abortion isn't the right thing for every single woman. But, under these rules, any organization that receives federal money can't talk about abortion at all, can't provide abortion at all, can't really even mention it.
And do you really think that that is providing for a woman an accurate and appropriate representation of what she should choose for herself?
Well, I don't think, William, you actually accurately suggested that — well, you maintained that they couldn't even talk about it. And that's just not the case under these rules. So, let me be clear about that.
Well, page 19 says: "A Title X project may not perform, promote, refer for or support abortion as a method of family planning, nor take any other affirmative action to assist a patient to secure such an abortion."
Well, and that's true in terms of referring to a clinic that does abortion. They're not required to do that any longer. That is something they were required to do.
But it doesn't preclude them from counseling on abortion if a woman would want to know about abortion as an option. That's very important. And it's important to say that, because Planned Parenthood has said there's a gag rule order here. And that's just not true.
Counseling for abortion can still take place. It's not required.
Only if a woman comes in and says, I want to have an abortion, though.
If — if she asks for information about that. And then the clinic could also say, you know, we don't — we don't have that as a part of what we do. And she can find another location that can.
I mean, there are many ways of finding out information in this day and age about places and what they do. We all have the Internet, so that's always a possibility.
All right, Doreen Denny, Concerned Women of America, thank you very much.
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