Reproductive health is under threat in the U.S., and women will pay the price.
Under a new policy by the Trump administration, clinics associated with the Title X family planning program, which enables poor women to afford birth control, cancer screenings and STD testing, are barred from receiving government funding (Title X money) if they provide abortions. Even if they receive funding from a separate source, clinics receiving funding from Title X would be prohibited from referring patients for an abortion at different institutions.
Under this gag rule, staff members would be forced to treat abortion as though it were illegal —an unspoken medical option. According to the federal Office of Population Affairs, in 2017 alone, Title X served more than four million women. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that the federal government saves more than $7 for every dollar that it spends on family planning.
This isn’t just about abortion now. This is about how women, especially socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals, will face even more barriers to crucial healthcare.
Banning funding to organizations that provide abortion referrals/services as part of their family planning care ensures that women benefiting from other forms of birth control, treatments, screenings and other medical examinations — many of which do not relate to abortion — would suffer from a dramatic reduction in their quality of life.
This policy takes direct aim at Planned Parenthood, which, despite serving about 40 percent of Title X patients around the country, was forced to withdraw from the program due to its refusal, and in fact, inability, to comply with this new policy. Other medically backed family planning groups are following suit.
These types of organizations are often some of the only federally funded health care sources in various areas of the U.S., especially in rural, economically precarious regions. Women in those places, under President Trump’s new rule, have a greater potential of not receiving medical care at all.
This Title X gag rule also clears the path for the expansion of “crisis pregnancy centers,” or a network of approximately 3,000 religious-based “clinics” that often lack in professional staff and unlicensed clinical services. With the new Title X rule in effect, these centers would likely receive the majority of Title X funding, since they do not promote comprehensive contraception services. This is merely a byproduct of the Trump administration’s anti-abortion agenda — family planning organizations lose federal funding, and anti-abortion proponents get to scold women’s reproductive health providers and values.
Allowing Title X beneficiaries to refer patients to clinics that perform abortions merely allows for the free flow health care information between patients and medical providers. The original Title X ensured that all women — no matter their identity or background — could receive affordable access to health care.
In one fell swoop that is the new Title X gag rule, the Trump administration conceded that. Is it worth it to consider the constitutionality of this gag rule, especially since it so severely impacts women’s health?
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.