Weeks after the Health and Human Services (HHS) Department announced that nearly 100 organizations would continue receiving government funding for reproductive health services they provide to low-income Americans, the Trump administration said Wednesday that those funds will expire in March 2019—drastically shortening the funding period for Title X recipients.
Title X funding, which groups including Planned Parenthood use to offer affordable breast cancer screenings, STD testing, and routine gynecological care to low income patients, generally lasts for three years before organizations have to re-apply.
"By pushing the gag rule, HHS is trying to undermine a program that four million people depend on for essential reproductive health care." —Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood
The move shortening the current funding period to just seven months was taken by some reproductive rights advocates as a sign that the Trump administration is aiming to cut funding to Title X recipients.
The seven-month funding period could be acting as a stop-gap until the administration finalizes the "domestic gag rule" it announced it was pursuing in May. The rule would forbid organizations that receive the government funds from referring patients to abortion care providers and eliminate a requirement that clinics tell patients that abortion is an option in the case of an unwanted pregnancy.
"Even as HHS announces these important grants for healthcare, it is rushing to finalize a domestic gag rule that would take that care away," Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told The Hill. "By pushing the gag rule, HHS is trying to undermine a program that four million people depend on for essential reproductive health care."
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is currently reviewing the Trump administration's planned rule.
The shortened funding period will also disrupt operations for groups like Planned Parenthood and force them to compete for funding more frequently instead of focusing on their mission to provide low-income Americans with care.
"Shortened and inconsistent program grant cycles that force Title X entities to semi-annually compete for funding causes undue administrative burden, detracting from healthcare providers' daily work of delivering high-quality preventive health care in communities across the country," Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, told The Hill.
Trump's step toward stripping clinics of government funding comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that STD rates in the U.S. climbed to a record level in 2017, with public health experts blaming funding cuts for prevention services.
Remember when congress passed a law (and Trump signed it) giving states the option of denying funds to Planned Parenthood? Now we see a record number of STDs in the country. Coincidence? The attacks on @PPFA need to stop! https://t.co/LBbffZgbQi
— Eric Rosswood (@LGBT_Activist) August 29, 2018
"We all understand that you've got to maintain your bridges and your roads—and you see them on TV when they crumble," Michael Fraser, executive director of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officers, told NPR. "You don't always see a crumbling public health infrastructure."