BY GEORGEANNE M. USO
The Trump administration announced Friday that it is proposing a new “gag rule” designed to block patients who rely on Title X from accessing critical family planning services at reproductive healthcare providers including Planned Parenthood.
The new proposed rule, which comes despite strong opposition from more than 200 members of Congress and 110 organizations, has not been released to the public. According to reports, however, the rule is intended to push Planned Parenthood and other reproductive healthcare providers out of the Title X program if they provide or refer patients for abortions, and would allow providers in the program to withhold comprehensive information from patients about their options.
If implemented, this will create a reality in which women with private health insurance receive comprehensive information, including referrals for abortion, from their doctors, while women whose providers are funded through the Title X program do not — because of restrictions imposed by the government on their doctors.
Four million patients rely on Title X for birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other critical preventive care. More than half are people of color. Two-thirds have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, and nearly half are uninsured. For many, the providers they see through the Title X program are their primary source of health care.
Many of these patients will lose access to their trusted providers as a result of the rule. Specialized reproductive healthcare providers — like Planned Parenthood, which currently serves about 41 percent of Title X patients — will lose
Title X funding if they don’t comply with the onerous new requirements of the rule. These regulations are designed to exclude them or force them to stop offering abortion care.
We know how dangerous it is when doctors are restricted from providing information to their patients. The administration drastically expanded a global gag rule last year, banning U.S. global health assistance to any nongovernmental organization abroad that discusses abortion with patients or engages in any advocacy or public education related to abortion. The devastating effect of this ban is already being felt, as organizations are forced to choose between providing truthful, often life-saving information about abortion, and receiving funding that allows them to provide critical health care to the world’s neediest communities. Health centers have shut down as a result.
This rule is only one piece of this administration’s assault on the nation’s family planning program. Last month, the ACLU sued the Trump administration on behalf of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association over changes to how grants are awarded under Title X. That lawsuit challenges plans to divert funding away from the program’s core mission to provide high quality contraceptive care, to an agenda that promotes abstinence until marriage. This prioritizes ideology over patients’ well being.
These actions are clearly intended to effectively dismantle the Title X program, which for more than 45 years has ensured access to affordable reproductive health care to low-income patients who would otherwise go without. They put countless peoples’ health and lives at risk in service of an extreme anti-abortion agenda.
When a patient walks in to her doctor’s office, the care and information she receives should be determined by her health care provider’s best judgment and experience. Nothing — including her income — s hould allow the government’s ideological agenda to interfere.