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Wednesday
May232018

New Trump rule an ideological attack on women’s health!

Trump’s rule a blow to family planning clinics and their patients

The Trump administration has issued a proposed rule that would have a devastating impact on Title X family planning providers and their millions of low-income patients. It’s an attempt to achieve administratively what Trump and Congressional Republicans have repeatedly failed to do through legislation – end federal funding for any clinics that provide or refer for abortions.

We must speak out in opposition to this harmful rule, which would force family planning clinics to stop providing abortion care on site or even referrals elsewhere for abortion services. Those clinics that don’t comply with these and other onerous restrictions would lose all federal Title X funds, depriving their low-income patients of birth control services, STI screenings and other preventive care!

Join Raising Women’s Voices on social media using the hashtag #NoGagRule to protest this action. Join protest rallies that are being held today at 5:30 pm on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. or tomorrow around the country in cities where there are regional offices of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which issued the rule yesterday.  Go here  to find out if there is a protest near you tomorrow. Also, stay tuned to our social media outlets for news of a 50-state strategy over the Memorial Day recess  to encourage Congressional members to speak out against the proposed rule.

How harmful is this rule? Let us count the ways

We and our women’s health allies are still studying the details of this 129-page proposed rule, and we will be preparing comments to submit by the 60-day comment deadline before HHS can issue a final rule that will go into effect. (That comment period has not yet started, because the rule has not been published in the Federal Register.) So, we will have much more to say about it in the weeks ahead. But for now, we want to explain the key elements of this rule.

First, we want to make clear that family planning providers are already prohibited from using Title X federal funds to provide abortionsThey must use other funds, such as direct payments by patients, to fund abortion care, and keep those funds separate from federal dollars, creating what is called “financial distance.”

This proposed rule would go well beyond the current restrictions, with the following requirements:
  • Family planning providers would be required to establish physical distancebetween services funded by Title X and any provision of abortion services. This requirement would mean family planning providers would have to move abortion care to another location, a crushing burden on clinics that are already financially stretched, or stop providing abortion care altogether.
  • Family planning providers that receive Title X funding would be barred from providing referrals elsewhere for abortion care. Currently, Title X clinics are able to provide referrals for abortion care, upon request from patients. Under the proposed rule, Tile X providers would only be allowed to give out a list of health providers that includes both those that do provide abortion care and those that don’t. The patient would have to figure out where to go herself.
  • Counseling of pregnant women by Title X providers would not have to be comprehensive and non-directional. So, providers opposed to abortion could omit any mention of abortion as an option when counseling pregnant women.  For example, if a woman’s pregnancy would severely affect her health, due to a diagnosis of cancer or another medical condition, her clinician could refuse to tell her about abortion as an option.
  • The rule would change the definition of “family planning” to include non-medical approaches such as abstinence-only or “fertility awareness” methods that have high failure rates. 
  • The rule would change the definition of “low income” to include women who have lost their contraceptive coverage because their employers object to it on religious grounds. However, the rule provides no additional funding for Title X clinics to serve such patients, and thus would likely prove a financial burden to clinics that are already underfunded.
Raising Women’s Voices joined 110 organizations that sent a letter to HHS Secretary Azar last week expressing grave concerns about the expected rule.

What can you do now? First, join a protest. There will be a #NoGagRule rally in Washington, D.C., today at 5:30 pm on Capitol Hill.  You can
RSVP here. Planned Parenthood affiliates around the country will also be holding local rallies tomorrow, Thursday, outside regional offices of HHS.  Contact your allies at your local Planned Parenthood for information about how to join.
 
Second, speak out online in opposition to this harmful proposed rule. It’s not too late to speak out, because there has to be a 60-day comment period before HHS can issue a final rule! Here are some talking points from Planned Parenthood, which provides 41 percent of all Title X funded services:
  • This is an attempt to take away women's basic rights. Period.
  • Everyone should have the right to information about their health care - including information about safe, legal abortion.
  • The result of this rule is that people will not get the health care they need. They won't get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing or other primary care services.
Third, work in your state! You can work to win approval for state funds to be provided to clinics that could lose their Title X funding because of this rule. Last year, our Maryland regional coordinator, Consumer Health First, did just that. They and other women’s health allies successfully advocated for the adoption of the Family Planning Services – Continuity of Care Act, the first policy in the country to proactively address the threat to women’s health if the federal government revokes funding under Title X.

Under Maryland’s new law, which went into effect on July 1, 2017, $2.7 million in state funding would be put towards establishing a Family Planning Program at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene if federal support for Title X providers is withdrawn due to “the scope of services offered by the providers or the scope of services for which the providers offer referrals.” While the $2.7 million is only a portion of the full $4 million Maryland can receive under Title X, according to the bill’s fiscal analyst, this policy helps to ensure that patients can continue to access care from providers like Planned Parenthood

“We are proud that Maryland has committed to ensuring that women have access to the vital health services that are their right,” said Leni Preston, Vice President of Consumer Health First.

Other states, including Massachusetts and Connecticut, have also proposed setting aside funding at the state level to fill the gap that would be caused by the loss of federal Title X funds. And last week, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo sent a letter to the NYS Department of Health Commissioner directing him to take immediate action to protect family planning services in New York in light of federal actions.

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