Despite opposition from the medical community, the Trump-Pence administration today released a final gag rule that undermines Title X, the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, and makes it illegal for health care providers in the program to refer patients for an abortion. This puts health care at risk for 4 million patients and keeps women from having information about all of their health care options.
The administration has put health care providers like Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE) in an impossible position: withhold information from patients or get pushed out of a program designed to ensure that people struggling to make ends meet can still access birth control, STI testing, cancer screenings, and other essential reproductive health care. PPNNE serves approximately 45% of the 22,000 Mainers who rely on the Title X program; this rule leaves their health, rights, and lives hanging in the balance.
The rule imposes cost prohibitive and unnecessary “physical separation” requirements on health centers that also provide abortion in an effort to stop Planned Parenthood from participating in the Title X program. These requirements could include forcing health centers to build separate entrances and exits, construct whole new health centers, or hire a whole second staff of doctors, nurses and administration staff. None of these requirements contribute to the health of patients.
Statement from Nicole Clegg, Vice President of Public Policy:
“Thousands of Maine people depend upon Planned Parenthood for essential health care. This gag rule is unethical and asks medical providers to compromise the nonjudgmental care they are sworn to provide. Patients expect their health care providers to speak honestly with them, to answer their questions, to help them in their time of need.
“Imagine if the Trump administration prevented doctors from talking to patients with diabetes about insulin. It would never happen. Reproductive health care should be no different. As healthcare providers that Mainers turn to every day, it’s our job to provide evidence-based, accurate information to our patients. We will always be here for our patients. We won’t withhold medical information from our patients, and we won’t stop fighting for everyone’s ability to access the fundamental right to health care.”
This rule is opposed by the general public, the medical community, lawmakers, and public health experts. When the rule was announced, more than 500,000 Americans voiced their opposition by submitting comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Major medical associations like the American Medical Association, National Medical Association, National Hispanic Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Physicians, and others stand against this rule. In addition, more than 200 members of Congress and 100 public health organizations have come out in opposition to a gag policy.
There is no replacement for Planned Parenthood, as researchers, medical experts and other providers agree. This rule could put access to free or low-cost basic needs — like birth control, and STI or cancer screenings — out of reach for many underserved communities, including rural communities and many communities of color.
- In many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of affordable reproductive health care or the only provider that offers specialized care like an IUD or the birth control shot.
- Even in areas where other providers are present, the providers often lack the capacity to serve additional patients. Community health centers themselves say there is no way they could fill the gap.
- In 2015, across the entire community health center network, 40 percent of sites served fewer than 10 contraceptive patients annually.