The Trump-Pence Administration has proposed a new gag rule on all women’s clinics receiving Title X funding, prohibiting doctors, nurses, and healthcare professionals from providing information about abortion.
Under this new rule, any clinic that receives Title X funding for family planning and reproductive healthcare would be barred from providing any information, referrals or services for abortion. This rule forces clinics across the country to choose between accepting funding for low-income health services or stopping providing any care or medical advice concerning abortion.
“This dangerous anti-woman and anti-science gag rule will take away from poor women, uninsured women, and adolescents their basic reproductive health services and will result in harming vulnerable women and girls,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
Trump’s rule is designed to prohibit patients eligible for Title X funding from receiving birth control, cancer screenings, STI treatments, and a whole host of preventative health services from family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood. Such a domestic gag rule not only violates women’s basic human rights, but also violates best medical practices and denies Title X patents from receiving comprehensive reproductive health information and services.
Title X of the Public Health Services Act is the only federal domestic program that is exclusively concerned with providing funds for family planning and reproductive health services. Title X funding is awarded through competitive grants to whichever healthcare providers prove they are best qualified for meeting the needs of the communities they serve. Under the longstanding Hyde Amendment, it is already against the law for Title X funds, or any federal dollars, to be used for abortion services. Clinics are required to keep those funding streams separated and are frequently audited to ensure compliance.
In 2015, over 4 million people received healthcare from over 3,900 facilities funded under Title X, a third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics. Typically beneficiaries of Title X funding are teens and adults who have too much income to qualify for Medicaid but too little income to afford health insurance through the marketplace. Over half of those who access healthcare through Title X are women of color.
According to the Center for American Progress, women’s health centers that receive money from Title X prevent 1 million unintended pregnancies each year that would have resulted in 501,000 unplanned births and 345,000 abortions.
In one of his first acts as president, Donald Trump signed an executive order reinstating and expanding the Global Gag Rule, banning all overseas organizations that receive any U.S. global health aid from providing or distributing information about abortions, even using funding from non-U.S. government sources.
The Global Gag Rule is already devastating initiatives aiming to bring healthcare and empowerment to women. Because they refused to stop providing safe abortions in Kenya—where 75 percent of abortions are done unsafely–Marie Stope International lost a $3 million deal with USAID meant to expand their contraceptive access program to 75,000 more women in rural Kenya. Concerning the funding shortage emergency that has been caused by the gag, Bill Gates said, “The U.S. is the number one donor in the work that we do. Government aid can’t be replaced by philanthropy. When government leaves an area like that, it can’t be offset, there isn’t a real alternative.”
“We know that the Global Gag Rule that was reinstated and expanded by the Trump-Pence Administration is resulting in desperately needed services being cut, health clinics forced to close, and an increase in maternal mortality, maternal illness, and unsafe abortions. Bottom line, whether in the Global South or the United States, such a punitive and dangerous rule will increase maternal mortality and needless suffering,” said Smeal.
Media Resources: Feminist Newswire 1/24/17, 3/31/17, 2/22/17