Supporters of Planned Parenthood gathered last Wednesday on Grand Street to protest what they are calling a gag rule that restricts health care providers from counseling patients about how and where they can access abortion.
The National Planned Parenthood organization announced August 19 that it would withdraw from the federal family planning program that provides birth control and other health services to poor women rather than comply with a new Trump administration rule that forbids referrals to doctors who can perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood receives about $60 million annually through the federal program, known as Title X. The funds have enabled the group to provide more than 1.5 million low-income women each year with services like birth control and pregnancy tests, as well as screenings for sexually transmitted diseases and breast and cervical cancer.
The group’s decision was cheered by anti-abortion advocates, who have long sought to strip Planned Parenthood of Federal Funding.
“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,” said Jeanne Mancini, President, March for Life, in a prepared statement. “Abortion is neither healthcare nor family planning and taxpayer dollars should not support abortion.”
Locally, Planned Parenthood Mid Hudson Valley received $717,000 in Federal Title X funding, administered through a New York State Department of Health Family Planning Grant in 2018, according to Frances Fox-Pizzonia, Vice President of Education & Public Affairs Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley.
“We’re not shutting down our doors,” she told a gathering outside the office of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY). “We’re continuing our services as usual.”
Planned Parenthood has continually received Title X money since the program was enacted in 1970 during the Nixon administration. It was not clear last week, where, or if, that funding would be redirected, nor was it clear what Planned Parenthood would do to replace lost funds.
Fox-Pizzonia said Planned Parenthood is awaiting directives on New York State Family Planning funding from the Governor’s office and the State Department of Health.
“We will also continue to raise funds through private donations to help offset the funding loss,” she added.
They are also looking to the state to help them in their battle with the federal government.
“Last year, the Governor vowed to protect access to family planning services and the legislature took action to create a contingency fund within this year’s budget as a safeguard should litigation efforts to block the gag rule fail,” Fox-Pizzonia said. “Now, with the gag rule in effect, we are working with Albany to protect access to sexual and reproductive health care.”
They are also looking for help from Congress to help reverse the Trump rule, noting that Maloney and Representative Antonio Delgado, who’s district includes Ulster County, have been supporters of Women’s Health Care and Rights. Maloney was not at the Newburgh rally, but several representatives from his office were there to lend support.
Several supporters spoke at Wednesday’s rally, saying there’s a need for legalized, regulated abortions. Among them was Ingrid Mazzola of New Windsor, who said she’s been a Planned Parenthood supporter since 1969.
“I lost a good friend in college to a botched abortion, because she had no place else to go,” Mazzola said.
Tori Blancato reminded supporters that Planned Parenthood does more than abortion referrals, adding that the organization “sticks its neck out for marginalized groups.”
She told the story of a high school friend who was afraid to tell his family that he was gay. She referred him to Planned Parenthood for HIV testing.
Nationally, Planned Parenthood Federation abortion services total 3 percent of the overall services provided. Locally, that figure is about 15 percent, according to Fox-Pizzonia, who said that 95 percent of those services are preventive and treatment.