NEW YORK -- Planned Parenthood said Monday it's pulling out of the federal family planning program rather than abide by a new Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.
Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood's acting president and CEO, said the organization's nationwide network of health centers would remain open and strive to make up for the loss of federal money.
But she predicted that many low-income women who rely on Planned Parenthood services would "delay or go without" care.
"We will not be bullied into withholding abortion information from our patients," said McGill Johnson. "Our patients deserve to make their own health care decisions, not to be forced to have Donald Trump or Mike Pence make those decisions for them."
Enforcement of the new Title X rule marks a major victory for a key part of President Donald Trump's political base -- religious conservatives opposed to abortion. They have been campaigning relentlessly to "defund Planned Parenthood" because -- among its varied services -- it is the largest abortion provider in the United States, and they viewed the Title X grants as an indirect subsidy.
About 4 million women are served nationwide under the Title X program, which distributes $260 million in family planning grants to clinics. Planned Parenthood says it has served about 40% of patients, many of them African American and Hispanic. Family planning funds cannot be used to pay for abortions.
In a statement, the federal Department of Health and Human Services said Planned Parenthood knew months ago about the new restrictions and suggested that the group could have chosen at that point to exit the program.
"Some grantees are now blaming the government for their own actions -- having chosen to accept the grant while failing to comply with the regulations that accompany it -- and they are abandoning their obligations to serve patients under the program," the department said.
It said it would strive to make sure patients are served.
Planned Parenthood was not the only organization dropping out. Maine Family Planning, which is unaffiliated with Planned Parenthood, also released its letter of withdrawal Monday. The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, an umbrella group for family planning clinics, is suing to overturn the regulations.
A federal appeals court in San Francisco is weighing a lawsuit to overturn the rules, but so far the court has allowed the administration to go ahead with enforcement. Oral arguments are scheduled the week of Sept. 23. Several states and the American Medical Association have joined the suit as plaintiffs.
Abortion rights activists are also pressing Congress to overturn the rule, though it seems unlikely that the Republican-controlled Senate would take that step.
Monday was the deadline set by the government for program participants to submit statements that they intended to comply with the new rules, along with a plan. Enforcement will start Sept. 18.