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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Vermont to Join Lawsuit Over Title X Funding

March 4, 2019

Contact: Eleanor Spottswood, Assistant Attorney General, 802-828-3171


Vermont’s Reproductive Health Clinics Jeopardized by New Federal Rule

Attorney General T.J. Donovan today announced his intent to file a lawsuit against the federal government over a new Title X funding regulation. Title X is the only national federal grant program that is dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and preventative health care. In Vermont, 10,000 people rely on Title X for their healthcare. The new rule includes a “gag rule” that limits providers’ ability to give neutral, factual information to their patients about abortion, and prohibits abortion referrals. The new rule also redirects funding priorities from the CDC’s birth control recommendations to only “natural family planning methods.” In Vermont, the only recipient of Title X funds are the 10 Planned Parenthood health care centers located around the State.

“The new Title X rule is contrary to law,” Attorney General Donovan said. “And it will have a devastating impact on reproductive healthcare for low income Vermonters. No Title X funds go toward abortion. Instead, the rule will deprive Vermonters of basic healthcare.” Title X funds basic healthcare services, including wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, birth control, contraception education, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

As a result of the new regulations, Title X providers will be forced to give incomplete and misleading information to patients—a “gag rule” on providing services or information related to abortion, even to patients who affirmatively say that they want one. The gag rule would also apply to any “referral partners” of Title X health care centers. The new rule stretch Title X funding to try to cover gaps in healthcare created by employers who opt out of providing insurance to cover contraception. The new rule also redefines “family planning” to promote “natural family planning methods” over more effective forms of birth control. The new rule never mentions the CDC’s evidence-based best practices guidelines, “Providing Quality Family Planning Services,” which was the gold standard for healthcare under the old Title X regulations. In addition, the new rule requires Title X health care centers to be physically located in a separate facility from any abortion provider. Title X funding is not, and never has been, used for abortions.

Vermont has ten health care centers supported by Title X funds, located in Barre, Bennington, Brattleboro, Hyde Park, Rutland, Middlebury, Newport, St. Albans, St. Johnsbury, and White River Junction. All provide crucial basic health care to underserved populations. Funding for each of these health care centers is jeopardized by the new rule. Title X has been providing high quality preventative health care to millions of Americans for decades.

“These changes are dangerous and unethical and could impact health care access for low-income Vermonters,” said Meagan Gallagher, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “Since taking office, the Trump administration has pushed policy after policy to take away basic rights and health care with incessant, hostile attacks on reproductive rights. We are grateful to Attorney General Donovan for fighting for Vermonters’ rights and access to health care.”

Vermont will be joined by Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Wisconsin. The basis for the anticipated lawsuit is that the new Title X rule is contrary to the U.S. Constitution and to governing statutes, including the Administrative Procedures Act. If the rule went into effect, it will harm Vermont by increasing health care costs as a result of an increase in unintended pregnancies, cancers not detected in early stages, and the spread of sexually transmitted infections.

Last modified: March 4, 2019