STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
The Trump administration is planning to announce a new regulation. NPR has confirmed this rule would block family planning funds from groups that also provide abortions. The new regulation would apply to Title X, which is a federal program that provides family planning for low-income Americans. And Planned Parenthood is one of the organizations expected to be hit by this change. Cecile Richards is on the line. Until recently, she was president of Planned Parenthood.
Welcome back to the program.
CECILE RICHARDS: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: So let's presume that this rule goes through. We don't know the exact terms of it, but it's been debated for decades, so we have a general idea. If it goes through as expected, as reported by NPR, what's that mean for Planned Parenthood?
RICHARDS: Well, I think the important thing, Steve, is it's not just what it means for Planned Parenthood but anyone in the Family Planning Program in this country. It would basically impose new rules, from what we understand, that were designed to make it impossible for patients to get birth control and other preventive services such as cancer screening, et cetera from our reproductive health care providers. And essentially, what it would mean - and this is such an extreme rule, it's never gone into effect in this country - but it would mean that doctors and nurses and hospitals and all kinds of health centers couldn't - could no longer talk to women about abortion or could refer their patients for abortion services. Again, we've never seen anything like this. It was talked about back in the Reagan era. That's how long ago this was. But it's incredible that this administration would take this kind of action.
INSKEEP: Well, let's be clear on what the situation is now. And you should correct me if I'm wrong. As I understand it, an organization like Planned Parenthood gets federal funding for family planning services, but you're not supposed to now use any of that money for an abortion specifically, right?
RICHARDS: Correct. And that's not only for Planned Parenthood. And that's what I think is important is that this would impact Planned Parenthood, and we are the largest provider in this program, but it also affects hospitals, community health centers. It's essentially a gag order on anyone that participates in the National Family Planning Program. But as you say, you know, for decades, federal funds have not been used for providing abortion services. And that's still the law. And Planned Parenthood complies with that as well as everyone else.
INSKEEP: But I suppose the argument of people who oppose abortion is it's all fungible, it's all connected. If they're getting money for one thing, it helps them free up money for the other thing. And they just don't want to be part of it.
RICHARDS: Well, I mean, Steve, that's so ironic because, of course, the Family Planning Program paid so little that organizations like Planned Parenthood have to raise money to actually subsidize the Family Planning Program. That is absolutely a false argument, and it's been demonstrated to be such for years. I think really the chilling thing about what they're proposing now is that it removes the guarantee that women in particular are getting full and accurate information about their health care from their doctor. I mean, this is absolutely extraordinary that we would now be gagging doctors and health care providers from giving women their legal information and even referring them for potentially lifesaving health care. That's never happened.
INSKEEP: So let's put this in a real-world situation. A woman goes to a doctor or goes to a Planned Parenthood clinic, goes wherever and is getting advice and considering her options. If that facility is receiving federal funds, the doctor cannot mention the word abortion, cannot make a reference to someone for an abortion. Is that your understanding of what the rule would mean?
RICHARDS: That is my understanding, Steve. And so, for example, let's say a woman comes in and she's pregnant but she also finds out that she's got a cancer diagnosis, which is actually something that now we - you know, of course, we see. Her health care provider could refuse to tell her that abortion is legal, that it's even an option and absolutely not refer her to another medical provider that could help her. I mean, I think before this kind of rule goes into effect, women trust that when they go to their health care provider, they are getting the best medical care and information that's available. And this rule absolutely destroys that kind of trust between the doctor and the patient.
INSKEEP: So let me put an opposing view at you and get your response to it. Our colleague, Sarah McCammon, has been reporting this story and again has confirmed that the Trump administration is expected to make this regulatory change which would cut off federal funds to any organization that does family planning but also as part of that provides abortions.
One response comes to an organization called Students for Life of America. A person associated with that, Kristan Hawkins, says, quote, "these changes are long overdue as abortion is not health care or birth control." And she goes on to say it is better, quote, "to keep such programs aimed at helping women make a plan for a family outside of the facilities designed to making sure women do not have a family at all." What do you think of that?
RICHARDS: Well, first, I think it's really important that this rule is not only about providers that provide access to safe and legal abortion - which, by the way, is 1 in 3 women in this country access at some point in their lifetime. It also gags providers from even helping women about abortion or even telling women that it's legal or that it's available in this country. And, look. This - it's just - I think as we have seen the attacks passed by the Trump administration on women's health care, on women's rights, we've also seen a surge in support for safe and legal abortion access in America.
And as we know, abortion has always existed. It's just before Roe and before women were protected, it was unsafe, and it was illegal. And we absolutely cannot go back to those days. And to me, the greater irony of all this is because of the work of Planned Parenthood and other health care providers, we're now at a historic low for teenage pregnancy. We're at a 30-year low for unintended pregnancies, the lowest rate of abortion. And this kind of rule that basically pushes women back in the shadows, doesn't provide them information or health care will only mean that the unintended pregnancy rate will go up.
INSKEEP: Just in about 30 seconds we have though, can you respond to the basic assertion being made there that some people are profoundly morally opposed to abortion and they just don't want the federal government to have anything to do with it, so just cut it off, set it to the side? Why not?
RICHARDS: Well, I mean, that's - this is a right that was established for women in this country more than 40 years ago. And if people don't support abortion, they don't have to have one. I think the important thing is women in this country have the right to have all the health information they need to make the best decisions about themselves, their pregnancies and their future. And that's what Planned Parenthood stands for.
INSKEEP: Cecile Richards, thanks very much for talking with us this morning. I really appreciate it.
RICHARDS: Thank you, Steve.
INSKEEP: She was president of Planned Parenthood for 12 years before stepping down last month.
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