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Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Vermont Moves to Protect Funding in Title X Lawsuit

March 22, 2019

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

Preliminary Injunction Would Stay New Federal Rule 

Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced that Vermont, and 20 other states, have filed a motion for preliminary injunction that would stay the Trump Administration’s new federal rules governing the Title X program. The coalition of state attorneys general moved to protect Title X funding while a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Trump Administration’s Title X “gag rule” is pending. The “gag rule” 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 “natural family planning methods.” Attorney General Donovan seeks to protect funding to 10 of Vermont’s Title X-funded healthcare centers that provide essential access to healthcare services. In Vermont, 10,000 people rely on Title X for basic healthcare. Title X is the only national federal grant program that is dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and preventative health care. In Vermont, the only recipients of Title X funds are 10 Planned Parenthood healthcare centers located around the State.

A copy of the motion can be found here.

“Thousands of low-income Vermonters rely on these funds for their basic healthcare,” Attorney General Donovan said. “It’s unreasonable to ask healthcare providers to withhold crucial information from their patients.” 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 stretches 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.

“This gag rule violates medical ethics and nationally accredited standards, and reputable institutions including the American Medical Association strongly oppose it,” said Lucy Leriche, Vice President of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We are grateful to Attorney General Donovan for his leadership and action to prevent the Trump Administration’s gag rule from taking effect in early May. We will continue fighting to protect the ability of providers to give the medically ethical, accurate, quality health care that our patients have come to expect from PPNNE.”

Funding for all of Vermont’s Title X healthcare centers is jeopardized by the new rule. And, there is not yet any other organization capable of providing Title X services statewide. Vermont has 10 healthcare 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. Title X has been providing high quality preventative health care to millions of Americans for decades.

The basis for the lawsuit, filed on March 5, 2019, 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, including costs to Medicaid spending, 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 22, 2019