News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Planned Parenthood President Leana Wen On Trump Administration Title X Changes


Planned Parenthood, long the target of social conservatives, could lose a significant portion of its funding under a new Trump administration rule released on Friday. The rule will cut federal funding from organizations that make referrals for abortions or provide the procedure. This is a win for anti-abortion activists who pressured lawmakers to defund organizations with ties to abortion.

But critics say it will hurt lower-income women who depend upon family planning centers that receive what are known as Title X funds. Leana Wen is a physician and the president of Planned Parenthood, and she joins us now.


LEANA WEN: Thank you, Lulu - good to be with you.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You call these changes to the Title X program a gag rule. Explain.

WEN: This is a gag rule because what President Trump is doing is to put a gag on doctors like me to prevent us from providing our patients with full and accurate medical information. So if you are a woman who goes to a health center that receives public funding, you cannot be referred to abortion care, even if your life depends on it. This gag rule is unethical and unconscionable.

I mean, imagine if the Trump administration issued a rule that forbid doctors from telling our patients about their options for any other aspect of health care. It's a direct interference with the practice of medicine and with our ethical obligation to our patients. And this is why over 100 medical and public health organizations oppose the gag rule, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I've read that you won't accept funds under the new rules.

WEN: Planned Parenthood will never force our doctors and nurses to compromise their ethics. We will never let politicians censor our health care providers and erode the trust that our patients have placed in us, which is to provide them with compassionate, judgment-free and comprehensive care. That's our promise to our patients.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But you could receive federal funds if you separated abortion services from family planning centers. The new rules say there needs to be clear physical and financial separation between government-funded services and abortion-related services.

WEN: This Title X gag rule isn't about providing good medical care. It only does one thing, which is to restrict patients' access to reproductive health care. It has no basis in medicine or science. And the only effect is going to be preventing 4 million Americans from receiving basic health care, including breast and cervical cancer screenings, affordable birth control and STI tests.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Religiously affiliated groups are hoping to get the money instead. Conservatives say this provides good alternatives to women.

WEN: We should talk about what is evidence-based, science-based methods for ensuring that all people have access to the health care that they need. Title X is our nation's program for affordable birth control and health care. And this program is intended to ensure that people with low incomes who live in rural areas or who don't have health insurance still have access to cancer screenings and preventive care.

And I think it's important to talk about the individuals who it will affect the most. It will disproportionately affect those who already face the greatest barriers to care. It's women of color and families of low income. And we need to talk about the discrimination involved here because if you are wealthy and you have private insurance, you can still get the best medical care.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: But religious groups say they could provide those alternatives, that they feel like they too deserve these funds so that there isn't a monopoly on care.

WEN: Look. I'm a doctor and a scientist. And I need to do what's best for my patients based on medicine and science. And what we have done for nearly 50 years through Title X is to follow the best available medicine and science. Title X is recognized to be one of the most successful public health programs in reducing sexually transmitted infections and reducing unintended pregnancies. This is what works.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Leana Wen is the president of Planned Parenthood. Thank you very much.

WEN: Thanks so much, Lulu. And thank you for your time. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.