Planned Parenthood’s CEO on What’s Next for Patients If Title X Is Defunded

Trump's proposal to defund the healthcare program would affect millions of patients—and not just those who visit Planned Parenthood.

Photo by Evy Mages

Last week, the Trump administration announced a proposal to defund Title X, a federal program founded in 1970 that provides funding for preventative health services and family planning at clinics across the country. Planned Parenthood, which provides sexually transmitted infection screenings, contraceptive care, cancer screenings, and other services, would be drastically impacted under Trump’s proposal, as it offers family planning that includes abortion services or referrals, which would make it no longer eligible to receive federal funds. We spoke with Laura Meyers, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington, on what this might mean for the organization, which provides care for 17,000 local patients a year.

What happens to Planned Parenthood if Title X is defunded?
I think we need to realize that this is much bigger than Planned Parenthood. This will impact patients accessing care from doctors, hospitals, community centers, at Mary’s Center, at Whitman-Walker Health. I think the most important thing is this is an attack on basic rights. It’s about withholding information from women. People will not be able to get the care they need. The birth control. The cancer screenings. The bulk of what Planned Parenthood does is preventative care, and that is what Title X is about. This is going to impact patients from all medical centers. This just isn’t good medicine. This is bad politics, playing with women’s health, and we need to stop it.

What Planned Parenthood services are used the most in DC clinics?
Fifty percent of what we do is actually STI testing and treatment. Contraceptive care is twenty-three percent of what we do. When you talk about STI testing and treatment, that is public health. It is playing with public health.  And [patients] come to us because we provide nonjudgmental care. That’s why Planned Parenthood is so important, because we don’t raise eyebrows. 

Many people don’t realize that Planned Parenthood offers services for men. How will men be impacted if Title X is passed?
Nine percent of our patients are men. And they’re coming to us for STI testing and treatment. Or, they found a testicular lump. Everyone, regardless of their gender or race or where they live, deserves the best medical care, and under this ruling, they won’t get it. We’re talking about closing off care. 

Nearly two-thirds of Title X patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level. Nearly half are uninsured. What areas and demographics would be the hardest-hit in DC?
Whenever there are laws that deny people access to information or care, the most vulnerable people are affected, and we can anticipate that here in the District. I’ll give you an example: In Suitland, Maryland, in Prince George’s County, we very deliberately located our medical center in a place that’s called a “doctors’ desert,” where there are more people than medical care. More than half of the Planned Parenthood health centers across the countries are built in medically-underserved areas.

What’s the immediate impact on the millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood for contraceptive care if Planned Parenthood were eliminated as a Title-X funded provider? What can these women do to continue to receive contraception?
We will tell them that we will make sure that our door is open to provide care. We are going to fight to ensure that our patients get the care and the information that they need. This rule does not take effect immediately—it triggers a process. Our doors are open. 

What can those who oppose defunding Title X do to help?
Draw attention to it. Uplift the patient stories. For example, we have a patient, she talks about moving to the Washington area, not having insurance, coming to Planned Parenthood. We did a clinical breast exam on her. We found a lump in her breast. She needed follow-up care. She was uninsured. We doggedly pursued this woman to get her follow-up care where they discovered she had breast cancer and needed immediate care.

Title X has nothing to do with abortion. We need to make that clear. This is about preventative care.  This will be devastating.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Kim Olsen

Kim Olsen ([email protected]com) is a freelance writer in Alexandria.