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Hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal grant funding for Hawaii Planned Parenthood clinics are in jeopardy because of a Trump administration proposal to cut funds for family planning facilities that offer abortions.
Using federal dollars to pay for abortion has been prohibited since the 1970s. But the proposed rule change would block government money from going to any family planning facility that offers abortions. It would also prohibit abortion referrals and rescind the requirement that women with unplanned pregnancies receive counseling on all of their reproductive options.
There are two Planned Parenthood clinics in Hawaii, one on Oahu and the other on Maui. Their services include abortions, birth control, pregnancy testing, the morning-after pill and women’s health examinations.
Local anti-abortion advocates had mixed feelings about the rule change, but Gov. David Ige and Planned Parenthood denounced it.
“We consider this policy to be a direct attack on women … as well as a direct attack on Planned Parenthood itself,” said Laurie Field, head of legislative efforts for Planned Parenthood in Hawaii.
The proposed change, submitted June 1 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, would apply to Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Title X authorizes the federal government to enter into contracts with or give grant funding to family planning clinics.
The financial, but not physical, separation between Title X funding recipients and abortion services creates a risk of commingling of funds “and the appearance and perception that Title X funds … may also be supporting that program’s abortion activities,” the DHHS wrote in its proposal.
The White House said in a statement that the proposed rule change “fulfills President Donald J. Trump’s promise to continue to improve women’s health and ensure that federal funds are not used to fund the abortion industry in violation of the law.”
Title X funds nearly 4,000 service sites such as community health or family planning facilities, and 90 public health departments nationwide, according to the proposal. The federal government doled out more than $286 million in Title X funding during the last federal fiscal year.
The Hawaii Department of Health received about $1.6 million for the current state fiscal year. That funding would not be affected by the proposed change because it doesn’t go to facilities that offer abortion, according to a department spokeswoman.
Hawaii Planned Parenthood clinics received $830,000 during the same time period. The organization did not provide its overall budget for Hawaii.
Planned Parenthood doesn’t intend to stop performing abortions in Hawaii if the rule change is codified, said Field. The organization also receives funding from insurance reimbursements, Medicaid, private donations and grants.
The group would have to ramp up solicitations for donations and grants if the proposed change passes, she said.
Field, a lobbyist, said Hawaii has been supportive of Planned Parenthood and reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood has reached out to local politicians to try and ensure its health care services could continue to be provided.
“Since the Trump administration came into power … We’ve been talking to our legislators about the impact to Hawaii, to our low-income folks and trying to do our best to be prepared,” she said.
About 5,700 Hawaii women visited Planned Parenthood clinics last year, Field said. The clinics typically have about 10,000 patient visits per year.
Planned Parenthood would not disclose the number of women who receive abortions at its clinics.
The proposed changes would go further if it were up to Walter Yoshimitsu, a deacon with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Honolulu. Birth control pills or infertility services, for example, contradict his religious belief that “anything that prevents pregnancy is not natural.”
He supports the proposed changes, for the most part.
“We were opposed to any kind of public funding for Planned Parenthood,” Yoshimitsu said.
But Kin Borja, head of Aloha Life Advocates, said the proposal goes too far.
He took issue with the portion of the rule change that would prohibit the recipients of funding from counseling women with unplanned pregnancies on their full range of reproductive options. Cutting Planned Parenthood’s funding would “take away the wonderful things that they do” to educate clients about abortion and other options, he said.
“People who are against the killing of innocent babies … their conscience is their final guide,” Borja said, later adding, “If they’re going to do it, give them the best information and let them decide.”
“As governors representing 90 million Americans, we are deeply concerned with this Administration’s plan to undermine women’s health …,” the letter began. “We strongly urge you to reconsider this plan, which is nothing more than a domestic ‘gag rule’ that poses serious risks to women’s health.”
The letter said its signatories would continue to confer with their respective attorneys general, legislatures and state health groups on the matter.
U.S. Rep. Colleen Hanabusa joined more than 100 congressional signatories in opposing the proposal in a similar letter.
The public can submit comments on the proposed change through July 31. The department will likely adopt the rule change after reviewing comments.
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