SALT LAKE CITY (News4Utah) – Three affiliates of Planned Parenthood – including Utah’s – filed a lawsuit Wednesday in federal court against the Trump administration, citing “unexplained and unjustified changes” to a federal program that funds the nonprofit.
The 40-page lawsuit claims the so-called changes are “designed to disadvantage reproductive health care providers,” and favor groups that promote abstinence, while limiting access to contraceptives for lower income women and minorities.
The lawsuit comes after the Trump administration announced funding plans for the Title X program, a Nixon-era policy that provides family planning funding for groups like Planned Parenthood. The Trump administration recently laid out plans for Title X funding for 2018, emphasizing abstinence and making no mention of contraceptive education.
“We are saying that this is not lawful,” said Heather Stringfellow, Vice President of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood of Utah. “We have a right to make decisions without being pressured by the Trump administration,” she added.
Stringfellow said last year, Planned Parenthood Association of Utah saw 46,000 patients. Without Title X funding, many of those patients would not be served, she said.
The groups suing fear funding for their organizations, provided since 1970, will be cut off under the Dept. of Health and Human Services’ funding announcement. The groups said they hope the courts will block the administration’s goals and uphold the funds they have received up until now.
Stringfellow said Planned Parenthood of Utah sees about $2 million each year in Title X funding, allowing easier access to family planning programs for lower income individuals.
“We are going to apply for the money because we don’t want to miss out,” said Stringfellow, “but we are worried we won’t be awarded the funding this year – after 35 years of getting it.”
Pro-life groups said they were “not surprised” Planned Parenthood filed the lawsuit. In a statement Thursday, Vice President of Pro-Life Utah Deanna Holland said her organization is pleased with President Trump.
“These changes will increase options and locations for lower-income women and will open the door to women receiving help that supports her and the life of her unborn baby,” wrote Holland. “…For many years, Title X funds have been going to an organization that only works to prevent or end the life of a child.”
Stringfellow said Title X funding is never used to perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood officials expressed concern in the lawsuit that faith-based reproductive health centers would be favored for Title X funding over Planned Parenthood affiliates.
News4Utah contacted one such faith-based organization in Salt Lake City. The Pregnancy Resource Center’s Executive Director Jim Kerr said his center has no plans to take on Title X funding, adding it only receives funding from donations and local religious organizations. Kerr said the center does receive federal Title V funding for abstinence programs.