(WPR) -- Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin and affiliates in two other states filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday against the Trump administration arguing changes to the federal Title X program limit the care provided.
A separate lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union's Reproductive Freedom Project and National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association against changes to the family planning program. The groups say the administration is going against congressional intent of a law enacted in 1970.
"The administration is trying to sneak through major changes in Title X in the fine print of a grant application announcement and outside the view of proper rule making," said Ruth Harlow, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
The administration wants to prioritize natural family planning like the rhythm method. A Federal Opportunity Announcement document detailing the changes does not specifically mention contraception. Reproductive rights advocates says it used coded language to promote abstinence.
"These changes would mean using government funds to promote no sex outside of marriage ideology, trading in FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approved contraceptive methods for shame, abstinence-based programs that we know don’t work," said Harlow.
The Planned Parenthood lawsuit filed on behalf of its affiliates in Wisconsin, Utah and Ohio is asking the court to block the FOA.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin provides birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and cancer screening to 30,000 patients through the Title X program each year, according to Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin CEO and President Tanya Atkinson.
Wisconsin has a shortage of physicians who provide obstetrics and gynecological care. Twenty of the state’s 72 counties lack an OB-GYN.
"In seven Wisconsin counties Planned Parenthood is the only Title X provider. And there are no federally qualified health centers in Wisconsin that participate in Title X," said Atkinson, who spoke during a teleconference Wednesday along with the other reproductive rights groups filing suit.
"If Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care providers are blocked from the Title X program, there’s nowhere else for our patients to go. These attacks would hurt those who need it most: people of color, people who live in rural areas and those with low incomes," Atkinson said.
In Wisconsin, Atkinson said 31 percent of Planned Parenthood patients are black and 18 percent are Latino, which are much higher than the general population.
Those filing the federal lawsuit stressed its not about abortion. Planned Parenthood does provide abortions but under current law can not use Title X funds for the procedure.