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California Abortion Providers Brace For Financial Blow, Consider Options As Trump Administration’s Title X Regulations Loom

Richard Vogel / AP

Protesters carry signs outside a Planned Parenthood health center in the Van Nuys section of Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 11, 2017.

Richard Vogel / AP

The Trump administration’s latest attempt to restrict Planned Parenthood funding is coming, and so are the California lawsuits.

Proposed changes to Title X, the federal program that governs funding for family-planning providers, could hurt Planned Parenthood and hundreds of clinics that offer abortion services throughout the state.

Abortion opponents say it’s a necessary move, but advocates are concerned safety-net clinics will close their doors, depriving low-income women of vital services.

The state of California and Essential Access Health, the nonprofit that distributes Title X funds, plan to file two separate lawsuits fighting the changes, which will be published Monday. Some groups are working with the state to find ways to make up for the anticipated loss in federal funds.

Clinics were already banned from using Title X funding for abortion services, but the proposed new rule states the procedure must be kept financially and physically separate from other types of care. That would mean providing abortions in a separate location from other treatment. Doctors would also be prohibited from referring patients for abortions.

Julie Rabinowitz, Essential Access Health’s president, says most of the 366 clinics that currently receive Title X funds will exit the federal program rather than attempt to comply.

“We believe there will be several health centers that will not be able to provide family planning services anymore,” she said. “Satellite sites will have to close, teen health centers will have to close, there will be reduced hours at health centers. It could have a pretty dramatic impact.”

She estimates there will be 200 layoffs of federally funded positions, plus clinic closures, if the rule takes effect.

But Jonathan Keller, president of the pro-life California Family Council, says the change puts a necessary firewall between federal funding and abortion services.

“It reflects the growing sentiment among many pro-life Americans, and even pro-choice Americans, which is that we don’t want to be having the government fund a morally controversial health care procedure,” he said.

An estimated one million Californians benefit from Title X services — a quarter of the four million people who use the program nationally. The funds support sex education, sexually transmitted disease prevention, cancer screenings and some primary-care services at community clinics and city and county health departments across the state.

Abortion rights advocates say they aren’t going down without a fight, and are confident the state Legislature will find a way to keep funding family-planning services.

There’s a history of support for reproductive care in California. Former Gov. Jerry Brown set aside budget funds for the state’s Family PACT program, which provides family-planning services to eligible low-income patients. In his first budget proposal, Gov. Gavin Newsom included $50 million in Proposition 56 tobacco tax funds for family planning in the Medi-Cal program.

Crystal Strait, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, says the organization is “very committed to making sure our health centers stay open and that all patients are served, and that we don’t give into this most recent line of attack.”

The state Assembly is creating a select committee on reproductive health to explore ways to increase access to care.

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