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Thursday
Feb282019

Why is the Title X rule so bad for women’s health?

Title X rule is a devastating attack on women’s health!

The Trump administration has rolled out its latest attack on women’s health, the final rule governing eligibility for federal Title X family planning funds. While the GOP effort to “defund Planned Parenthood” grabbed most of the headlines, the rule may be even more insidious. If allowed to go into effect, it could transfer millions of taxpayer dollars away from real reproductive health clinics and give that money to religiously-affiliated fake clinics.

That would be devastating to the more than 4 million low-income people who use the federal Title X family planning program to obtain free or reduced-cost birth control, STI testing, and cancer screening at clinics they know and trust! The rule is slated to go into effect 60 days after its official publication in the Federal Register on March 4 – so a little over two months from now.

Voice your opposition to the rule using our RWV social media badges (which you can find HERE) and activate your networks!

What makes this new rule so bad?

Family planning providers are already prohibited from using Title X federal funds to provide abortions. But under the new rule, clinics that also offer abortion care would no longer be able to serve Title X patients without creating a whole new clinic first. 

That’s because the rule requires both financial and physical separation, and is explicit about what that physical separation should look like. Under the rule, HHS would determine whether a clinic has separate “treatment, consultation, examination and waiting rooms, office entrances and exits, shared phone numbers, email addresses, educational services, and websites” and “separate personnel, electronic or paper-based health care records, and workstations” for abortion services and for those funded by Title X.

Clinic staff would no longer be able to provide patients with full and accurate information or a referral to an abortion provider. As a result of those restrictions, nearly half of current Title X grantees, including Planned Parenthood and three states, have said they won’t be able to participate. The medical community overwhelmingly opposes the rule, warning that it “would undermine patients’ access to high-quality medical care and information, dangerously interfere with the patient-physician relationship and conflict with physicians’ ethical obligations, exclude qualified providers, and jeopardize public health.”

Public health experts warn that blocking community clinics like Planned Parenthood from the Title X program would force other providers to “increase their client caseloads by 70%, on average.” The administration plans to fill the void with fake clinics, often religiously affiliated, that focus primarily on abstinence and “natural family planning” in lieu of the full range of contraception. That’s because the new rule isn’t just the latest battle in the rightwing war on Planned Parenthood. It’s also part of the Trump administration’s larger war on medical science.

The new rule permits Title X funded clinics to give biased and misleading counseling and to withhold information about all reproductive health care options, including medically approved contraceptive methods (such as birth control pills or IUDs). Under companion rules issued last November, religiously affiliated non-profits can now qualify as Title X providers if they offer “a broad range of family planning services” such as “abstinence counseling” and “fertility awareness-based methods” like the rhythm method. The rule requires providers to offer at least one hormonal method, like the Pill, but makes clear that “broad range” doesn’t have to include very much.

Today, a woman who qualifies for Title X can walk into her local Planned Parenthood and get a free or low-cost IUD, or year-long vaginal ring, or any one of more than a dozen other options depending on which method is right for her. Under the new rules, her only option might be a Christian clinic offering condoms, one kind of birth control pill, and lots of aggressive counseling on abstinence and the rhythm method—with a heavy dose of shaming.

Raising Women’s Voices has been active in fighting the rule and helping to build the strongest possible legal case. Our newsletter series last summer highlighted all of the ways that the rule could hurt marginalized communities and we helped publicize the public comment period. Ultimately half a million people wrote in opposition to the rule.

Earlier this month, RWV staff met with officials from the Office of Management and Budget to call out the administration’s failure under the law to evaluate the rule’s real health and economic costs, particularly for women of color. One state, Washington, has already filed suit and more lawsuits are expected. When this rule goes to court, the administration will have to justify why it ignored the law and the needs of four million low-income people.

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