SEATTLE: Dr. Erin Berry, WA Medical Director and Director of Clinical Research for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands, issued the following statement:
“Hi, my name is Erin Berry, and I’m the medical director for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. Every day I provide Title X patients in Washington with much needed cancer screenings, birth control, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy testing. It’s my job to make sure my patients have the very best information and care available so that they can make the decisions that are best for themselves. I’m passionate and grateful to have the honor of helping people pursue a healthy and happy life.
The Trump-Pence gag rule needs to be challenged because it blocks doctors from being able to refer their patients for safe, legal abortion. As a doctor, I cannot imagine withholding information from my patients. It’s unethical and it flies in the face of the oath I took to care for my patients. It threatens the doctor-patient relationship, and prevents patients from having full and honest information about all of their health care options. Politicians have no business telling me what I can talk to my patients about. This rule is shameful and it’s dangerous.
But the gag rule doesn’t stop there. The rule has another dangerous provision that is specifically designed to block people from accessing birth control, cancer screenings, and other reproductive health care at Planned Parenthood and other Title X providers. Planned Parenthood serves the vast majority of the 91,000 Washingtonians who rely on the Title X program. Our Title X patients come from around the state and from many different backgrounds - from the homeless youth with a urinary tract infection to the stay-at-home mom who needs birth control and a cancer screening. Most of our Title X patients live below the federal poverty level and would not otherwise be able to find the lifesaving care that Title X provides. Many of the Title X patients who receive care at Planned Parenthood are from rural communities and communities of color, who already face systemic barriers to health care.
Already, in many counties, Planned Parenthood health centers are the only places that provide uninsured people or people with low incomes the reproductive care they need. Community health centers themselves say there is no way they could fill the gap if Planned Parenthood is forced to turn away thousands of Title X patients. Destabilizing the Title X program will also put family planning education services at risk for the more than 18,000 people who rely on Planned Parenthood for those lessons. That’s the last thing Washingtonians need. And that’s why when the rule was first proposed, the Washington Department of Health said it would be “hugely disruptive to our state.”
The gag rule is unacceptable. Know this: Planned Parenthood will always be here for our patients and we will continue to fight for a world in which everyone has the freedom and opportunity to control our lives at the most basic level: our bodies, our families, and our life’s path. Birth control is health care. Cancer screenings are health care. Reproductive health care is health care, and health care is a human right. The Trump-Pence administration may not think you deserve care, but we do. Thank you.”