The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the gag rule’s harm — Biden-Harris administration must move swiftly to restore access to affordable sexual and reproductive health care
SACRAMENTO — Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released proposed regulations to end the Title X gag rule:
Statement from Jodi Hicks, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California:
“The Biden-Harris proposed rule to end the Title X gag rule is good news: it’s a critical step forward for sexual and reproductive health care access in this country. Planned Parenthood applauds President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the Department of Health and Human Services for moving to end this harmful rule. The Title X gag rule has undermined the program, silenced providers, and actively harmed people of color and people with low incomes across the country — all during a pandemic. Everyone deserves access to affordable reproductive health care — from birth control to STI tests to wellness exams — no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make.”
The proposed regulations released today, when finalized, will end the Title X gag rule and make other modifications to strengthen the program and better ensure access to equitable, affordable, client-centered, quality health care services for patients under Title X. In the coming days, a 30-day comment period will allow the public to underline the harm the gag rule has wrought and emphasize why it must be ended as swiftly as possible.
As the nation’s only federal program dedicated to providing affordable birth control and other reproductive health care to people with low incomes, Title X is a critical piece of our social safety net that can, and should, help ensure equitable access to essential health care. Title X grants fund services like birth control, contraceptive counseling, STI treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings, pre-pregnancy care, and more.
In 2019, the Trump administration finalized the domestic gag rule to prohibit Title X providers from referring patients for abortion. In just under two years, it slashed the Title X network’s patient capacity nearly in half, creating unacceptable barriers to affordable care. Six states no longer have any Title X providers. Before the Trump administration implemented the gag rule, Planned Parenthood health centers across the country served approximately 40% of the program’s 4 million patients. After the gag rule, the patients receiving Title X services were forced to find new providers, or stopped receiving critical care entirely.
Title X disproportionately serves Black, Latino, and Indigenous patients, patients with low incomes, and patients in rural areas. Because of centuries of systemic racism and inequities, people from these communities have always faced daunting barriers to getting the health care they need. Systemic racism and other inequities have also caused these communities the most harm from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a death rate of double or more that of white Americans and disproportionately harsh economic hardship.
Access to sexual and reproductive health care is inextricably tied to health and safety during the pandemic. After the close of the comment period, the Biden-Harris administration must move to swiftly end the gag rule and ensure the Title X program is able to meet people’s needs. This would be urgent in any environment, but it is all the more urgent as we continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California (PPAC) is the state public policy office representing California’s seven separately incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates. Through advocacy and electoral action, PPAC promotes sound public policy in areas of sexual and reproductive health care and sex education.