Kenney among mayors who oppose Title X family planning program changes

Supreme Court Abortion-06062018-0001
Abortion rights activists, from left, Ravina Daphtary of Philadelphia, Morgan Hopkins of Boston, and Alison Turkos of New York City, rejoice in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, Monday, June 27, 2016, as the justices struck down the strict Texas anti-abortion restriction law known as HB2.

Mayor Kenney has joined a bipartisan group of 80 mayors nationwide in decrying the Trump administration’s proposed changes to the $260 million Title X family planning program.

“The changes would have a devastating effect on our city and cities across the nation,” Kenney said at a Wednesday news conference, sounding a theme of a letter the mayors sent Tuesday to President Trump’s health secretary, Alex Azar.

The proposed rules would deny funding to clinics that provide abortion or even tell women about it. In addition, clinics that perform abortions would have to be physically and financially separate from providers of other Title X services such as gynecological care, STD testing, and cancer screening.

Title X providers give priority to low-income families, who receive care free or on a sliding scale. Federal funds are already prohibited by law from being used for abortion.

The proposed requirements are similar to those that were put in place but never enforced under President Ronald Reagan. Opponents challenged the Reagan rules all the way to the Supreme Court, which upheld them. The policy was rescinded under President Bill Clinton, and a new provision was added that women must receive “nondirective” counseling about options including abortion.

Unlike the Reagan regulations, the Trump proposal carves out a narrow situation in which a patient could be given an abortion referral: when she explicitly says she has already decided to have an abortion. She could then be given a list of clinics that includes some abortion providers.

The Trump administration proposal, published Friday in the Federal Register for public comment, would hit Planned Parenthood particularly hard, potentially costing the organization millions of dollars. It is by far the biggest Title X recipient, getting more than $50 million a year.

>> READ MORE: Dispute questions anti-abortion group’s use of taxpayer dollars

About 30,000 Philadelphia-area residents get Title X-funded services from the eight health centers run by Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania, according to CEO and president Dayle Steinberg.

Steinberg spoke at the Wednesday press conference at City Hall, deriding what she called “a dangerous domestic gag rule” that would “remove the guarantee of receiving full, honest, complete information.”

Medical groups and public health organizations have echoed the mayors’ fears that changing Title X would hurt women and low-income families.

The mayors’ letter says it “would be an attack on the well-being and economic security of those who already face barriers to access health care and need it most.”

Among the 19 Pennsylvania mayors who signed the letter were the leaders of Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, and Ambler.