The banner above the Planned Parenthood North Columbus Health Center reads, “Our Doors Stay Open.”
The clinic, a block east of Ohio State’s campus, is one of many Planned Parenthood locations that will receive less federal funding after deciding to leave the Title X initiative Aug. 19 to bypass a Trump administration rule that went into effect May 3, according to the Federal Register.
Title X is the only federal grant program that seeks to provide family planning services and preventive health care to low-income or uninsured people, according to the Department of Health and Human Services’ website. Among other changes, the new rule forbids Title X grantees from referring patients to abortion services when they seek counseling for family planning, according to the website.
According to its annual report, Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio received $4.3 million from Title X in 2018, around 18 percent of its total revenue.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio said in an Aug. 19 press release that it is leaving Title X because of its commitment to “providing fact-based, compassionate and respectful health care.” It said it currently treats about 60,000 Title X recipients across the state, and “the strain on patients seeking care and other providers can only lead to poor health outcomes for patients with the greatest need.”
Due to a legislative provision called the Hyde Amendment originally passed in 1976, federal funds cannot be used to pay for an elective abortion — those not deemed necessary to save the life of the mother or as a result of rape or incest.
Despite the change in funding, the North Columbus Health Center said it and other Ohio Planned Parenthood locations promise to continue to provide their full range of health care and educational services.
“The North Columbus Health Center offers birth control, HIV testing and counseling, pregnancy testing, STI testing, treatment and vaccines as well as general reproductive care,” Nicole Evans, chief marketing and communications officer for Planned Parenthood of Greater Ohio, said in an email.
The North Columbus Health Center also provides abortion referral services, but does not perform abortions, according to its website.
Evans said that 83 percent of patients at the clinic are between the ages of 18 and 34. Ohio State student organizations said that the decision to opt out of Title X funding will impact student access to medical resources.
“It’s definitely going to get harder to access health care, especially for students,” Sarah Szilagy, a second-year in journalism and political science and co-president of #Fight4Her at Ohio State, said. “It’s likely that costs for everything will increase since Planned Parenthood is very keen on keeping their doors open.”
Szilagy said that anti-abortion rules and legislation further stigmatize the procedure.
“It closes a lot of doors for college students who are definitely struggling with having unsafe sex or are victims of rape. It removes a safety net for them,” she said.
Szilagy also pointed out the effect it has on the abortion discussion on campus.
“We have supporters who are very angry at this and very strong pro-life people who are emboldened by it because our government has given them agency and legitimized their beliefs,” Szilagy said. “It forces people to either side, which is a good thing in my opinion, but if it’s not met with information and actual thoughtfulness, then it can be a bad thing.”
Petra Wallenmeyer, a graduate student and chemistry teaching associate, Students for Life executive board member and anti-abortion advocate, said that leaving Title X shows that Planned Parenthood does not have women’s best interests at heart.
“I think they’re overreacting by saying, ‘We’re pulling out,’ because they could still skirt the rules and do everything they’re doing now,” Wallenmeyer said. “It is very dishonest of them to say, ‘Abortion is only 3 percent of what we do, but we’re willing to lose 12 percent of our federal funding over it because we’re not able to follow the rules.’”
Wallenmeyer said that she suspects Planned Parenthood has made this move for political gain rather than the integrity of health care, and that the Trump administration rule is just a step to enforce Title X rules already in place.
“I see this as more the federal government trying to protect their own money than a political steppingstone to overturning Roe v. Wade or making some federal abortion ban,” she said.
Wallenmeyer said she has seen a growth in interest among students in the anti-abortion movement because of similar rules and legislation. She, like Szilagy, said that legislation that deals with abortion has a polarizing effect on the discussion.
“Polarization can be harmful because it doesn’t promote good and productive conversations,” Wallenmeyer said.
Correction: Petra Wallenmeyer was initially listed as an abortion rights advocate. Her position has been corrected to anti-abortion advocate.