A Trump administration “gag rule” that prevents health clinics with federal Title X funding from providing abortion referrals, and led to Planned Parenthood withdrawing from the program, would have disproportionately affected patients in Deschutes County.

Planned Parenthood’s Bend Health Center serves 13 times more family-planning clients in Deschutes County than any other clinic in the county, according to Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette.

But Planned Parenthood says patients in Deschutes County and across Oregon should see no change in service, because of expected state money to replace the $3 million in Title X funding the state received last fiscal year.

“They will not notice a lack of service at all,” said Anne Udall, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette. “We will work with anybody who walks in our doors.”

Udall said she has been in contact with Gov. Kate Brown’s office and is confident the governor will address the funding gap.

“I think they will find ways to help while this is still being worked out in the courts,” Udall said.

Natalie King, a spokeswoman for Gov. Brown’s office, said funding to support the clinics is coming from Oregon’s Reproductive Health Equity Act, signed into law in 2017.

Brown is opposed to the gag rule and is working to find additional funding if needed, King said.

“Gov. Brown is exploring all options as we look to next steps for a sustained filling of this gap,” King said.

Title X-funded clinics in Oregon served more than 37,000 patients in 2017, with two-thirds who were low-income. The clinics offer birth control, screening for cancer and sexually transmitted diseases, and wellness exams. Planned Parenthood provides abortion care, but it makes up just 3.4 % of medical services.

The Title X program was signed into law in 1970 and was designed to provide access to reproductive health services to low-income people. The program does not offer funds for abortions, but many clinics that provide abortions rely on the program to provide other family planning services.

The Trump administration gag rule against providers discussing abortion options also includes a new rule that Title X-funded clinics would have to physically separate abortion services from the rest of the clinic. That includes building separate entrances and exits for abortions and hiring separate staff.

Refusing to participate in the gag rule allows Planned Parenthood clinics and their affiliates to continue offering the same health care services to women without restrictions, Udall said.

“By withdrawing, you don’t have to follow those rules,” Udall said.

The state funding to replace the Title X funding will be necessary while the gag rule is decided in federal court. This week, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals decided the gag rule has to go into effect even though it’s still being legally challenged.

Planned Parenthood, the American Medical Association and the Oregon Medical Association and 21 state attorneys general filed a pair of lawsuits in March to block the Title X gag rule.

— Reporter: 541-617-7820, kspurr@bendbulletin.com

23897554