Trump Rule Would Trigger Extra State Funding for Family Planning Organizations

As the national debate escalates over stripping federal funding from organizations that counsel women to get abortions, Maryland is now legally prepared to step in. Maryland recently became the first state to pass a law protecting Planned Parenthood and other family planning clinics from having to cut services should they lose funding at the federal level.  The bill became law on July 1 without the signature of Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. (R), who is personally opposed to abortion but has vowed not to try to restrict access to the procedure during his tenure.   House Health and Government Operations Chairwoman Shane M. Pendergrass  Del. Shane M. Pendergrass (D-Howard), the House sponsor of the measure, said the legislation was designed for women’s health clinics and family planning organizations should their Title X funding be withheld as proposed by the Trump administration, which wants to reinstate and expand a Reagan-era rule. The rule would bar health care providers from performing abortions or referring patients to abortion providers in order to receive federal funding for family planning services, mirroring the rule imposed during the Reagan administration, which did not prohibit abortion counseling. Anti-abortion activists are hailing the proposed rule change. “A win like this would immediately disentangle taxpayers from the abortion business and energize the grassroots as we head into the critical midterm elections,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, said in a written statement. The rule change, which President Trump proposed in February, has already been the object of political battles and legal skirmishing. But Maryland lawmakers moved quickly to shore up Planned Parenthood and similar organizations.  Should the federal rule go into effect, Maryland law would require the state to establish a fund dedicated to supplementing lost funding that could affect services provided by clinics like Planned Parenthood. “It will create long-term savings, as family planning allows people to prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections,” Pendergrass said. Maryland receives $4 million in federal funding for family planning services in addition to the $6 million already supplied by the state’s general fund. Should the $4 million be cut as proposed, the general fund would make up for the loss in federal payments. This means 25,000 patients Maryland Planned Parenthood serves will not lose access to affordable birth control, testing for sexual transmitted infections, family planning counseling or the numerous other services the organization provides. The state will also continue funding clinics that offer abortion-related counseling or referrals. Federal law already prohibits Title X funding from being used for abortions anywhere, including Maryland. That aspect of the law would be unaffected by any proposed changes. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement saying the proposed rule would prevent taxpayers from indirectly funding abortions through referrals to abortion providers, who are not funded by the federal government. A proposed rule change could severely limit women’s access to abortion and other family planning services in certain parts of the country – though not in Maryland.   “[If] the proposed gag rule triggers the implementation of the State law, there will be no change in how Marylanders access the services covered by Title X. However, in other parts of the country patients will lose health care, which impacts everyone in this nation as we will see people go with untreated STI’s, undetected cancer, and more unintended pregnancies,” said Dana Robinson, director of Communications and Marketing for Maryland Planned Parenthood. Pendergrass, chairwoman of the Health and Government Operations Committee where the protection bill originated, said the legislation went unopposed in both the House and Senate. The Senate sponsor was Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery). “Injury to one is an injury to all,” said Robinson. “The focus is to stop the proposed gag rule from being implemented to protect patients across the country.”

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