Health

Planned Parenthood exits federal Title X family planning program

Millions funneled to Iowa agencies for services for low-income individuals

The Planned Parenthood offices in New York. (Reuters)
The Planned Parenthood offices in New York. (Reuters)

By Michaela Ramm, The Gazette

Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa, along with other affiliated clinics across the country, have left the sole federal grant program funding family planning services for low-income Americans, officials announced Monday.

Starting this week, Planned Parenthood patients in Iowa no longer will have the benefit of Title X funding for health services at five Iowa clinics, including the location in Iowa City. That equates to about a $1 million loss of funds in Iowa for services that include contraceptives, cancer screening, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, officials said.

For patients without insurance, that means there may be a cost associated for services that previously were free, said Jamie Burch Elliott, public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood North Central States, the five-state affiliate that includes Iowa.

“Following the loss of Title X funding, a sliding fee scale will be offered to patients based on income, and Planned Parenthood will continue to help patients enroll in health coverage they may be eligible for,” according to a Planned Parenthood statement Monday.

The Trump administration began enforcing new regulations this week that prohibit any health care organization that provides or counsels patients on abortion services from receiving Title X funding, a federal grant program to provide family planning services to individuals with low incomes Americans. Federal funding for abortions already is illegal.

Planned Parenthood requested a stay on the rule in a letter sent to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit last week. But a judge rejected the request on Friday.

“Despite this dangerous move by the Trump administration, Planned Parenthood will continue seeing patients and our doors are open,” said State Executive Director Erin Davison-Rippey in a statement. “... Planned Parenthood will never withhold information from our patients in exchange for funding.”

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Title X supports nearly 4,000 service sites nationwide, which serve approximately 4 million people a year, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Planned Parenthood health centers see about 41 percent of all Title X patients nationwide, according to Planned Parenthood’s website.

Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa worked with about 14,000 patients through the grant in 2018, Burch Elliott said.

Starting Monday, Planned Parenthood clinics in Iowa City, Urbandale, Ames, Des Moines and Council Bluffs will not have access to the program funding.

The Cedar Rapids Planned Parenthood is not the Title X clinic for the area. The Eastern Iowa Health Center serves that role, and received about $114,000 in federal program funds for the current year.

In Cedar Falls, the Title X clinic is Allen Women’s Health, which received $248,000.

Potential Impact

Title X funding is distributed in Iowa by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Family Planning Council of Iowa, a not-for-profit focused on ensuring access to reproductive health care and family planning services.

The Family Planning Council of Iowa provided a little more than $2 million in Title X funds in 2018 to 10 agencies in Iowa, including Planned Parenthood, said Jodi Tomlonovic, executive director of the council. Those 10 agencies served nearly 23,000 patients in calendar year 2018, she said.

The Department of Public Health oversees the remaining 45 counties in Iowa and has contracts with seven agencies under the grant program, said Polly Carver-Kimm, department communications director.

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The seven agencies — which include the Eastern Iowa Health Center in Cedar Rapids — received more than $931,000 in Title X funding for the period between April 1, 2019, to March 31, 2020.

Tomlonovic said the Family Planning Council of Iowa is “assessing what will happen moving forward,” and declined to comment specifically on Planned Parenthood’s announcement.

However, she said the council was concerned about anything that could limit access to family planning services as it could lead to more unplanned pregnancies and higher sexually transmitted infection rates if fewer people won’t seek testing or treatment.

“When you exclude certain providers, it’s going to limit (access),” Tomlonovic said. “Iowa as we know is not a place that has a lot of health care providers, so limiting access to family planning services is something that we’re very concerned about.”

Burch Elliott echoed Tomlonovic’s statement, adding that women particularly in rural areas or who otherwise struggle with health care access will have “drastically” less access to care.

After four Planned Parenthood clinics closed in Iowa in 2017 when state lawmakers defunded the organization, Burch Elliott said officials saw patients delaying or going without care altogether.

Some expect the impact from the new federal rules to be compounded by state lawmakers’ creation of a $3 million State Family Planning Program, which funnels state dollars to health care clinics that do not provide abortion services. Although the previous family planning program did not use taxpayer money to pay for abortions, Iowa officials rejected federal dollars that allowed participation by providers — including Planned Parenthood — that offer such services.

According to a previous Gazette report, participation in the state program dropped in the first year. In December 2017, about 6,500 people had enrolled in the program.

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This was a 46 percent drop from December 2016, when 12,000 people were enrolled in the predecessor program, called the Family Planning Network.

The Washington Post contributed to this article.

• Comments: (319) 368-8536; michaela.ramm@thegazette.com

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