Trump rule change would hit Planned Parenthood in Vermont

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Lucy Leriche, policy director, Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON — A rule change from the Trump administration could result in a significant funding cut to Planned Parenthood clinics in Vermont and nationwide.

The Trump administration rolled out a rule change proposal Friday that would bar federal family planning grant money from going to health care providers that perform abortions.

The Title X program supports family planning services, including birth control, cancer screenings and more.

The policy change could have a big impact on Planned Parenthood in Vermont, which is the sole recipient of funding through the program in the state.

Federal law already prohibits federal money from going to pay for abortions.

“The new proposed rule would not cut funds from the Title X program. Instead, it would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement Friday.

The measure does not go as far as some initially anticipated. There have been reports that the administration would seek to bar providers from discussing abortion with patients entirely.

However, Lucy Leriche of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England said the organization views the change in regulation as achieving the same end.

“From our part of view, if it prevents funds from going to clinics that provide abortion, that in and of itself is a gag,” Leriche said.

In Vermont, the federal money goes to the state Health Department, which then administers it to health care providers.

Planned Parenthood, which runs 12 clinics in the state, is the only current recipient of the grant money in the state.

According to Leriche, nearly 10,000 patients received services in the state funded by Title X in 2017.

The state is in the process of preparing a grant application for the federal government now, according to department spokesperson Ben Truman.

In recent years, Vermont has received between $775,000 and $781,000 annually through the program.

According to Truman, the money could also go to other organizations, like community health centers or hospitals. If Planned Parenthood is no longer eligible to the accept the money, it would not affect the amount the state receives.

Planned Parenthood is already challenging in court a change the Trump administration made to eligibility criteria for the Title X program which the organization argues would “warp” the mission of the nearly half-century-old program.

Twenty state attorneys general, including Vermont Attorney General TJ Donovan, threw their support behind that lawsuit this week.

Abortion opponents welcomed the rule change proposal as separating taxpayer funds from the procedure.

All three members of Vermont’s delegation came out strongly in opposition Friday.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said the Trump administration “works overtime to find ways to undermine women’s access to health care.”

“It’s a slap that hits women in rural areas especially hard,” he said.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., also slammed the rule.

“I always find it curious that ‘conservatives’ tell us how much they want to get the government off the backs of the people,” he said. “But, when it comes to women and family planning, they want … the government to tell every woman in America what she can and cannot do with her body.”

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., vowed to opposed the change.

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