Planned Parenthood announced Monday that it is pulling out of the Title X federal family planning program rather than abide by a new Trump administration rule prohibiting participants from referring patients for abortions.
Pro-life groups heralded the abrupt decision as a major victory -- and one that signaled that Planned Parenthood, contrary to its claims, is primarily a politically motivated abortion provider, not a healthcare organization.
The rule does not prohibit medical providers from discussing abortion with patients, but prevents them from telling patients where they can obtain one. The rule's requirements also include financial separation from facilities that provide abortion, designating abortion counseling as optional instead of standard practice, and limiting which staff members can discuss abortion with patients. Clinics would have until next March to separate their office space and examination rooms from the physical facilities of providers that offer abortions.
Planned Parenthood's pullout followed a June order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals that lifted a nationwide injunction that had prevented the Trump administration from enforcing the new rule. The court's three-judge panel, with two judges appointed by President Trump, is still weighing Planned Parenthood's lawsuit to overturn the rule but has allowed the administration to begin enforcement -- a sign that the administration will ultimately win on the merits.
Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood's acting president and CEO, said the organization's nationwide network of health centers will remain open and work to make up for the loss of federal money.
Calling the Trump administration's "gag rule" both "unnecessary and dangerous," Johnson said on a conference call with reporters that "we believe that the Trump administration is doing this as an attack on reproductive health care and to keep providers like Planned Parenthood from serving our patients. "
"For nearly half a century, Title X has ensured that those struggling to make ends meet or who don’t have health insurance can access services like birth control, cancer screenings, and STD testing and treatment in their communities," Johnson said.
Johnson predicted that many low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood, which is the nation's largest abortion provider, will "delay or go without care."
"This is *direct attack* on Planned Parenthood and on our health and rights, and we will not stand for it," Planned Parenthood tweeted, saying the Trump administration was "forcing" the group out of the Title X program.
Responding with its own statement, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said that Planned Parenthood affiliates knew months ago about the new restrictions and suggested that the group could have chosen at that point to exit the program.
"Some grantees are now blaming the government for their own actions — having chosen to accept the grant while failing to comply with the regulations that accompany it — and they are abandoning their obligations to serve patients under the program," the department said.
Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines said that "taxpayer money no longer going to the nation’s largest abortion provider will now be available for community health centers across Montana.” He noted that there are far more such health centers than Planned Parenthood clinics in Montana.
Pro-life groups argued that the move made clear what they said has long been an open secret: Planned Parenthood's chief role as an abortion provider.
“Planned Parenthood, our nation’s largest abortion provider, today made a choice not to separate its abortion operation from Title X services, and in doing declined Title X funding, which makes up approximately four percent of their annual budget," Jeanne Mancini, President of the March for Life, said in a statement.
"Abortion is neither healthcare nor family planning and taxpayer dollars should not support abortion," Mancini added. "Leana Wen’s recent firing and Planned Parenthood’s decision today doubles down on their ultimate goal, which is political abortion advocacy, not healthcare.”
Wen tweeted in July that, after just eight months on the job, Planned Parenthood's board had "ended my employment at a secret meeting. We were engaged in good faith negotiations about my departure based on philosophical differences over the direction and future of Planned Parenthood."
She later posted a copy of a letter to Planned Parenthood officials in which she said that she was "leaving the organization sooner than I'd hoped."
According to Buzzfeed News, sources charged that Wen had refused to use “trans-inclusive” language. For example, rather than say "people," Wen would prefer the gendered words "men" or "women," according to the sources.
About 4 million women are served nationwide under the Title X program, which distributes $260 million in grants to clinics. Planned Parenthood says it has served about 40% percent of patients.
Planned Parenthood was not the only organization dropping out. Maine Family Planning, which is unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood, also released its letter of withdrawal Monday. The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, an umbrella group for family planning clinics is suing to overturn the regulations.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has set oral arguments in Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against the Trump administration rule for the week of Sept. 23. Several states and the American Medical Association have joined the suit as plaintiffs. Activists are also pressing Congress to overturn the rule.
Fox News' Caleb Parke and The Associated Press contributed to this report.