This week, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) introduced a gag rule that would undermine the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, radically restrict health care providers, and impact millions of people across the country.
In 2016, nearly half of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest the Hawaiian Islands’ (PPGNHI) visits were Title X patients. PPGNHI also uses Title X funds to support insurance enrollment services, as well as education and outreach activities designed to increase awareness about family planning and the Title X program.
“This is low, even for the Trump-Pence Administration. The result of this gag rule is that people will not get the health care or information they need. They won’t get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, or even general women’s health exams,” said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of PPGNHI. “We serve more than 43,000 people through the Title X program across our four states and everyone has the right to access information about their health care – including information about safe, legal abortion. This Administration has shown time and time again that it is are coming after our health, our freedoms and our rights, particularly those in marginalized communities. We will not back down. We will not be gagged. We will never stop fighting for our patients.”
The proposed rule would do three main things:
- Make it illegal for doctors, nurses, hospitals, and community health centers across the country that participate in the Title X program to refer their patients for safe, legal abortion.
- Impose new restrictions designed to make it impossible for patients to get birth control or preventive care from reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood.
- Remove the guarantee that people are getting full and accurate information about their health care from their providers. For nearly two decades, Title X law has been clear: Health care providers cannot withhold information from you about your pregnancy options. This rule means they can.
The rule is expected to include a 60-day comment period after the yet-to-be determined date it is posted to the official Federal Register.
The domestic gag rule has never gone into effect in the United States before. The Reagan Administration tried to implement this in 1988, but the rule was held up in the courts and later retracted by the Clinton administration in 1993 after intense outcry from the medical community, including the American College of Physicians and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Reinstating this rule would prevent millions of people from getting birth control and preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers. At the same time, it would also force providers to withhold information from patients across the country.
Although Planned Parenthood health centers make up only about 13 percent of the Title X health centers across the country, they serve 41 percent of the patients who get care through Title X. Preventing those patients from coming to Planned Parenthood health centers would mean many are left with nowhere else to turn.
Title X is a decades-old popular and effective program designed to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, how much money they make, and whether or not they have health insurance, has access to basic preventive reproductive health care like birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and well-woman exams. It has received bipartisan support from Congress since its inception. Every year it serves more than four million people, although many people who get care through the program may not even be aware that they are Title X patients.
This rule is opposed by the medical community, lawmakers, and public health experts. Major medical associations like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and more oppose this rule. More than 200 members of Congress and 100 public health organizations have come out in opposition to a gag policy.