Lawmakers listening to testimony in February about legislation guaranteeing a woman's right to an abortion
Vermont will use state dollars to ensure Planned Parenthood can continue to provide a full range of reproductive health services in response to new restrictions on federal family planning funds.
Health Commissioner Mark Levine announced Monday that he had notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that Vermont would stop using Title X dollars to fund Planned Parenthood of Northern New England’s services at 10 clinics. Instead, the state will make up the $759,000 difference with general fund dollars set aside for just this purpose.
New rules by the Trump administration allow clinics accepting Title X funds to talk to patients about abortion, but not to give women information about or refer them to abortion providers.
“We refuse to let the Trump administration bully us into withholding abortion information from our patients in Vermont," said Lucy Leriche, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. "The gag rule is unethical and dangerous, and we will not subject our patients to it."
“These changes by HHS will disrupt one of our state’s most essential public health programs,” Levine said in a release. “For nearly 50 years, Title X has helped ensure that Vermonters have access to quality family planning and we want to make sure this continues.”
About 10,000 Vermonters receive services through Title X at Planned Parenthood health centers.
The state made its decision even before Planned Parenthood announced Monday that it had withdrawn from the federal funding program. Levine sent word to HHS on June 15, ahead of the August 19 deadline to submit a plan outlining how Vermont would comply with the rule changes.
Levine said such a restriction of patient’s access to information about abortions would disrupt the state’s network of health services and providers’ obligation to give patients the range of options. State officials also asserted that complying with the restrictions would violate state law.
In 2019, Vermont enshrined in law “the fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion” and prohibited interference with “regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information, the choice of a consenting individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy.”
Health Commissioner Mark Levine
“It’s important that we maintain women’s rights and access to health care,” Gov. Phil Scott said in the release.
He noted that Vermont joins Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and Maryland in forgoing Title X funds.
In his notice to HHS, Levine expressed hope that the changes to Title X prove to be short-lived. The Vermont Health Care Coalition, a group that represents a wide swath of Vermont’s medical community, strongly opposed the restriction, calling it a “violation of medical ethics.”