The Trump Administration is looking to make new rules that could shift federal funding for family planning services from health care providers to organizations that oppose abortion. If local healthcare clinics lose the family planning support they’re currently receiving, patients could be the ones paying the price.
La Familia Medical Center in Santa Fe offers all kinds of family planning services - things like pregnancy tests and contraception. And if a patient wants, a licensed doctor could refer them to a clinic where they could get an abortion.
Under the proposed rules, that last thing could cause La Familia to lose the federal support they’ve been receiving for years. Wendy Johnson, the center’s medical director, said she’s willing to let that happen.
“We would become essentially ineligible for Title X because we will not refuse to give some of our patients critical, legal medical information,” Johnson said.
Title X is a federal program that gives states funding to support family planning services. New Mexico was granted $4.7 million in the last year. The majority of that goes to paying staff at more than 40 state public health offices. The second-largest chunk of money is used for supplies for clinics like La Familia.
“It’s the patients that get the benefit,” Johnson said. “They get free access to contraceptives, to reproductive health care, to treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.”
There are 19 healthcare clinics in New Mexico that receive Title X support, according to documents from the state’s Department of Health. The program is meant to help people with low incomes or who don’t have insurance.
If La Familia was booted out of the program, Johnson said, it’s the community – not the center – that would take the hit.
“We could expect to see teen pregnancy rates go up and we could actually expect the demand for abortion services also to go up because people are gonna be having less access to contraceptive services,” she said.
Right now under the current rules, to get support from Title X, you have to provide comprehensive family planning services – including information about where to get an abortion.
Places that refuse to give out that information, like so-called crisis pregnancy centers, can’t get benefits from Title X. But that would change under the Trump Administration’s proposed new rules.
Kim Ferguson leads the Hope Pregnancy Center in Los Alamos, where they counsel people to continue their pregnancies. They don’t make referrals for abortions.
“The goal is to simply open up in many ways more choices for individuals who aren’t interested in abortion,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson said they get enough support from the community so she doesn’t think the center will apply. But she still thinks there are centers that should try.
“Those federal funds may actually open the door for some centers to expand services in terms of support groups for teen parents or material assistance for families who are in need,” she said.
Two other crisis pregnancy centers said they don’t plan to apply.
Maybe they can go without Title X, but Pamelya Herndon said some people can’t. She leads the Southwest Women’s Law Center, an advocacy-focused non-profit in Albuquerque. And she’s been following the proposed changes closely.
“The first thing that we began to think about is ‘How do we protect women’s reproductive services and their access to services and information?'’’ she said.
If the new rules become a reality, Herndon said she’s going to be pretty busy, mainly because the state has so many uninsured residents who may rely on Title X.
“It’s going to affect us considerably more than most other states simply because of where we fall economically,” she said.
It’s not clear when the new rules will go into effect. If they do, Herndon said low-income women all over New Mexico might have to forego their reproductive care to afford things like food or transportation.
KUNM’s Public Health New Mexico project is funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the McCune Charitable Foundation, and the Con Alma Health Foundation.