In 2019, a Christian pregnancy center moved into two sand-colored buildings on a shaded lot off the interstate in Austin, Texas. Those buildings previously housed the flagship location of an abortion business, but a competitive lease offer from the pro-life group forced the abortion mill out. Since then, the pro-life pregnancy care center now known as The Source has offered free medical and counseling services to women in the Texas capital.
Last year, The Source in Austin and seven other affiliated locations in Texas began offering contraception in another bid to compete with abortion businesses, this time for Title X family planning funds. Andy Schoonover, CEO of The Source, said his organization plans to apply through the federal grant program later this year.
Last year, the Trump administration proposed rules that have forced abortion businesses out of the Title X program and encouraged pro-life centers like The Source to apply. The rules state that Title X recipients cannot refer for abortions and must move their abortion services to separate facilities.
Some states and pro-abortion groups have challenged the new rules in court, and federal judges in California, Oregon, and Washington blocked the rules from taking effect. But last Monday, in an encouraging move for pro-life advocates, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the judges’ decisions and upheld the requirements.
Planned Parenthood chose to withdraw completely from the Title X program rather than stop referring for abortions. Other groups that similarly prioritize abortion could also end up leaving Title X because of this decision.
The departures will have little effect on women seeking care. In the 80-page majority opinion of the 9th Circuit, Judge Sandra Ikuta noted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates only about 10 percent of Title X recipients offer abortions. Only 20 percent share locations with an abortion provider. When a recipient leaves the program, the money will be “redistributed in the same states and locations,” so local women will still have a place to seek help, said Jeanneane Maxon with the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life think tank.
The 9th Circuit’s decision could reduce the number of abortion centers applying for Title X funds, making more federal family planning dollars available for some pro-life centers that offer contraceptives, like The Source.
“Our chances [of becoming a new Title X recipient] will be directly correlated with the number of clinics that have dropped out,” Schoonover said.
Catholics and other groups who have religious convictions against birth control sponsor many of the nation’s crisis pregnancy centers, though. Anne O’Connor from the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates said she did not expect a rush of Title X participation from pro-life clinics.
Other pro-life advocates warn against pursuing the funds at all. Former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson said the ruling will force abortion businesses out of Title X and encourage the Trump administration to go after other title cash grants that prop up groups like Planned Parenthood. But Johnson said pro-life pregnancy centers should stay away from the Title X program: “It’s all about money and it’s not about healthcare, and it’s not about keeping women healthy. … This is not pro-life money by any means.”