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Md. law would protect state’s Planned Parenthood funding

Karen Nelson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland sitting next to various types of contraceptives. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Karen Nelson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland sitting next to various types of contraceptives. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

A Trump administration proposal that would cut off funding for Planned Parenthood nationally would not significantly impact Maryland thanks to a recently passed state law. But the state’s Planned Parenthood chapter still plans to fight the proposal.

“No one is going to rest on their laurels here in Maryland,” said Karen J. Nelson, president and CEO of the state organization. “This state solution doesn’t change the fact that there are politicians that are trying to prohibit people from accessing care. We don’t think our state should have to step in. …The federal government has this responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to health care.”

The proposed federal rule would prevent taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions. That would likely keep clinics, like Planned Parenthood of Maryland, from receiving federal dollars for the family planning services they offer.

“The rule is going to block access to care at Planned Parenthood,” Nelson said. “(It would) prohibit providers across the country from referring for abortion and removing the protections that women have full, honest information about all of their options, including abortion.”

The rule has not been officially proposed, and text of the rule had not been released, but broad strokes of the proposal were widely reported Friday.

In Maryland, there would likely not be a loss of funding, however. The General Assembly passed a law last year to make up the difference for any money lost either through actions by Congress or the president.

The nonpartisan Maryland Department of Legislative Services has previously estimated that lost federal family planning funding to the state that largely ends up with Planned Parenthood could be as much as $4 million.

Services offered through the Title X program in Maryland, which mostly includes Planned Parenthood, prevented 15,000 unintended pregnancies, 1,490 preterm or low birth-weight births, and 1,018 sexually transmitted infections in 2014, the department estimated.

The federal Title X program provides funding for family planning services. It was signed into law in 1970. Clinics that provide abortions must keep funds from Title X separate from funds used for abortion.

The proposal intends to keep federal dollars from indirectly paying for abortion, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

“This important proposal would ensure compliance with the program’s existing statutory prohibition on funding programs in which abortion is a method of family planning,” Sanders said. “The new proposed rule would not cut funds from the Title X program. Instead, it would ensure that taxpayers do not indirectly fund abortions.”

Because Planned Parenthood has no intention of stopping abortion referrals, the program’s federal funding would likely cease. Providing women with all of the information they need is part of the organization’s mission, Nelson said.

“The women that come to see us seeking out health care and seeking out someone to talk to about their options want to ensure that we’re not holding back on anything, and we’re not going to hold back on anything,” she said. “Patients come to their health care provider seeking information and they want to know that they are getting the full, 100 percent information here.”

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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