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Anti-Abortion-Rights Group Reacts To Restrictions On Clinics


We've confirmed the White House will roll out a new proposal today, a rule that bars federal family planning funds from going to any group that also provides abortions, or discusses that procedure or refers patients to anyone else who provides abortion services. The responses we're hearing this morning include one from Marjorie Dannenfelser. She's president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which is a pro-life organization. Welcome back to the program.

MARJORIE DANNENFELSER: Thank you, Steve. Great to be here.

INSKEEP: I want to be clear on what is happening here. We should note that federal funds were already barred from paying for an abortion. So what else will be banned here, exactly, as you understand it?

DANNENFELSER: Well, this flows from the same principle. It just puts a bright line between family planning and abortion services in the family planning program. There's a statute in that law that says that no funds in this program can be used where abortion is a method of family planning. So it really is just putting that statute into the reality of the day-to-day life of Title X clinics.

INSKEEP: So this is something that affects - when you say Title X clinics, we're talking about Planned Parenthood clinics. They might be the most famous ones. But as we understand it, also hospitals, a variety of other providers. If abortions are provided or even discussed anywhere in that facility, the whole facility is barred from any federal funding. That's the rule here, right?

DANNENFELSER: Yeah. And it's promoting or performing abortion as a method of family planning, yes. But in any of these situations, Planned Parenthood is the main, as you say, is the main perpetrator. They have a choice. And no one is making them - no one is taking their funding away. We're just saying if you're going to use these funds that taxpayers pay for, ambivalent or against abortion, don't force taxpayers to be involved or entangled in the abortion issue when this is supposed to be family planning funds.

INSKEEP: Well, let's just make sure that we're clear on what that is. We heard from Cecile Richards, the former head of Planned Parenthood, who emphasized, by the way, that her organization is not the only one affected here, although she acknowledged that it may well be the largest. And she talked about what she describes as essentially a prohibition on speech and a prohibition on giving the best family planning advice and the best medical advice. She said in our interview that this, quotes, "gags providers from even telling women that it is legal to have an abortion and that it is available in this country." Do you believe that that is what the rule is doing and should do, that a provider could not even have a discussion about this?

DANNENFELSER: No. That is simply not true. If a patient asks a question, you can obviously answer the very simple question. It's absurd that she would say something like that, and it's absurd that it's called a gag rule. That's the script that Planned Parenthood wrote during the Reagan administration when these regulations first started to be forcing themselves into bearing out the statute. And it really is really just a little bit outrageous how Planned Parenthood protests so much when this comprises 4 percent of their overall funding. They can, she herself, even out of Planned Parenthood, could raise a pinky and raise 4 percent of their budget. This is the integrity of this program at stake, and it is in keeping with the consciences of the nation which do not want their money involved and entangled in the abortion business, which they are.

INSKEEP: So let me ask you about something else that Cecile Richards said in our interview. She said, quote, "if people don't support abortion, they don't have to have one. Women have the right to have all the health care information they need." Are you forcing your beliefs on other people?

DANNENFELSER: (Laughter). If she believes in abortion, if Planned Parenthood believes in actual family planning, which is not abortion, they can choose to set these funds aside and raise them in an evening in Hollywood and make up for those funds. What we're doing is protecting the consciences of people who don't want to be complicit in the abortion act. And that is the taxpayer, every single time Planned Parenthood uses this money for its overhead and its counseling, its support and referral for abortion.

INSKEEP: I want to make sure I understand what you're saying here. You're saying, well, they can just raise money for abortions some other way...


INSKEEP: ...In a Hollywood fundraiser or whatever else. But they already do that. They already have...


INSKEEP: ...They already have the abortions paid for separately. This is reaching beyond whatever abortion services might be provided to any other service that the facility provides and saying that abortion cannot be discussed, or if a doctor or some other health care provider thinks that that might be an option that the person ought to consider, they can't even refer them in that direction. This is not just - it doesn't even sound like your solution is practical. This would prevent that.

DANNENFELSER: No, no. That's not it at all. All this does is put a bright line of separation between what family planning is, which is not abortion, and contraception and all those other services that Planned Parenthood does. This is what this is about. It's about the conscience of taxpayers, and it's about Planned Parenthood respecting the integrity of the family planning, not abortion, program.

INSKEEP: Would you agree with the assertion that family planning has actually been going pretty well in the United States? Teenage pregnancy is down. Unwanted pregnancies are down. The number of abortions is down in the United States lately.

DANNENFELSER: I would agree with that. But at Planned Parenthood, the abortion rate has - their number of abortions that they have provided has been stable or has gone up slightly as their contraception services have gone down. So I know I'm beating the Planned Parenthood drum, but it is to say this. It is central to their business model. This is what they are and who they're about. They could go ahead and obey these regulations and really look at family planning and really excel with those successes. But that's not what they want to do. They want to make sure that abortion is considered the equivalent of contraception, which no one agrees with. At least, less than 1 percent agree with that idea.

INSKEEP: I could imagine Planned Parenthood's abortions not going down so much even as the national number of abortions goes down because so many clinics otherwise have been put out of business.

DANNENFELSER: Yeah. Well, look at what they could be doing. If you saw abortion as a necessary evil, a tough thing in a tough time then you would pretty much be helping to track that sentiment. You would be helping track through adoptions and prenatal services and other things. But that is not what they do. What they do is they promote abortion within communities where they know that they are at the most vulnerable. So it's like they're a tire sales company trying to promote their best product. It makes sense for them because they don't disagree with abortion, and that's what we have to say. They don't. But most people don't see it as they do and don't want to pay for it.

INSKEEP: One other thing. Do you expect further steps from this administration to restrict abortions or access to abortion services?

DANNENFELSER: I very much hope that this administration will sign a law that says that abortions after five months are - except for the health of the mother and the life of the mother - are illegal in this nation. It would put us in line with most of the nations in the world, and it would put us out of the group of Vietnam, North Korea, China, seven nations. We are one of seven that has refrained from doing that. I expect that to happen before this president leaves office.

INSKEEP: Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, thanks for joining us.

DANNENFELSER: Thank you, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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