Extremists in Congress fast-tracked the dismantling of an Obama administration rule that protected access to reproductive health care.
This afternoon the House of Representatives is set to vote to overturn a rule that had protected health care for more than 4 million people who rely on Title X, the nation’s family planning program. As of this posting, anti-abortion members of Congress are poised to make it easier for states to block patients from preventive care at family planning providers like Planned Parenthood that also provide abortion.
Blocking Title X Patients from Planned Parenthood Is Illegal
Barring Title X patients from accessing care at a family planning provider because it also provides safe, legal abortion is already illegal. To date, every court to consider the issue on the merits has ruled that state politicians cannot block access to care at Planned Parenthood through the Title X program.
The Obama administration’s rule served to underscore this legal standing, making it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that states cannot prevent women from accessing health care from the most qualified providers under Title X.
“Extremists in Congress are trying to make it easier for state politicians to take away people's health care, specifically, the 4 million people who rely on Title X for birth control and other care. This is wrong and it’s not what the American people want.”
—Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards
The Rule Was Popular & Protected Patients
The rule safeguarded care at Planned Parenthood health centers and garnered widespread support in its call for public comment, with 91% in favor of it. But it’s not just about Planned Parenthood. The rule protected access to care at reproductive health centers across the board, many of which have been targeted by “defunding” measures in states like Texas, Ohio, Florida, and Kansas.
The rule ensured those most in need – those who have very low incomes or lack health insurance – still have access to lifesaving care, such as cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams.
About Title X
Title X helps ensure that every person, regardless of where they live, how much money they make, or whether or not they have health insurance, has access to basic, preventive reproductive health care.
Simply put, Title X helps ensure more than 4 million people have health care in this country. The nation’s family planning program offers preventive health care services to those most in need.
85% of the people served by Title X have incomes below 200% of FPL, and 48% are uninsured.
Approximately 20% of these patients identify as Latino/a; and approximately 14 percent identify as Black.
In 2015, Title X provided nearly 800,000 Pap tests, breast exams to 1 million women, nearly 5 million tests for STIs, and 1 million HIV tests.
Consequences of Overturning the Rule
Title X is the only way that millions of women who have low incomes or are uninsured have access to birth control, cancer screenings, STI tests, and other basic care. For many of them, not being able to get care at their trusted health care provider means that they don’t get care at all. In fact, 6 in 10 women who access care from a family planning health center consider it their main source of health care — and for 4 in 10, it’s their only source of care.
Blocking patients from care has a disproportionate impact on people with low incomes and communities of color, who already face systemic barriers in accessing health care and are less likely to have insurance. They also benefited most from the protective rule, and stand to be hurt the most by the rule’s undoing.
What’s more, blocking access to care at Planned Parenthood health centers has already had dire consequences:
After Kansas blocked patients from care at Planned Parenthood and other reproductive health care providers, the number of people accessing birth control, cancer screenings, STI tests, well-woman exams, and other care through the Title X program fell by more than 14,000.
Blocking patients from Planned Parenthood in Texas was associated with a 35% decline in women in publicly funded programs using the most effective methods of birth control and a 27% increase in births among women who previously had injectable contraception through those programs.
“For many women in America, Planned Parenthood is the only place where they are able to get needed quality care."
– Mark S. DeFrancesco, MD, MBA, FACOG, immediate past president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Planned Parenthood & Title X
Planned Parenthood health centers care for approximately 1.5 million patients through Title X – roughly one third of the people on the program. With so many Title X clients going to Planned Parenthood for care, it’s obvious why experts have dismissed the idea that these patients could just go to other providers if states blocked their access to care at Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood health centers also are much more likely to offer Title X patients a broad range of contraceptive methods than other providers.
“I hate to say it, but I think an awful lot of women just opted to go without care… We are seeing a subsequent rise in STDs and a subsequent rise in unplanned pregnancies. And I’m sitting here going, ‘See? I told you so. This is what happens.’”
—Mike Austin, chief executive of Midland Community Healthcare Services, after the closure of Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas
This is one of the most important moments in Planned Parenthood history, and we need reproductive rights advocates to make sure their senators SEE PINK everywhere they go.