May 23, 2018

Trump Title X Gag Rule Will Harm Millions of Patients, Pro-Choice Caucus Leaders Say

It Forces Essential Facilities to Choose Between a Range of Needed Health Care Services and Self-Censorship

Washington, D.C. – President Trump’s new proposed rule on Title X-supported programs is effectively a gag rule that will harm millions of women and families. This new rule would ban providers from referring or counseling patients on their full range of reproductive options by forcing health care providers who treat underserved communities nationwide to choose between continued funding for a range of health care services and helping women understand and exercise their constitutionally-protected rights to reproductive choice, the co-chairs of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus, Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Barbara Lee (D-CA), said today.

“Millions of uninsured, low-income and young people across the country stay healthy thanks to the confidential, evidence-based care they receive at Title X-supported facilities,” DeGette said. “For many men and women, these facilities are the only providers within miles for family planning and preventive health care services including breast exams, Pap tests, HIV testing, reproductive issues and contraception. A person’s Zip Code shouldn’t determine their access or lack of access to preventive health care services; threatening federal funds for these facilities by restricting the exchange of the full range of health care information and service options between providers and patients forces these centers and their providers to make that awful choice.”

“For decades, Title X programs have been a bipartisan priority that have provided lifesaving preventative care to low-income families in communities across this country,” said Congresswoman Lee. “By turning this program into a political football, the Trump-Pence Administration is jeopardizing care for women and putting the health of our families at risk. Make no mistake: this new Title X rule is an ideological attack on women’s health care, which will disproportionately hurt low-income women and women of color. The White House has no business censoring doctors or limiting the health information available to patients. This rule is unconstitutional, dangerous and insulting to women and their families.”

The proposed rule prohibits providers receiving Title X funding from counseling or referring patients for abortion care, unless patients explicitly request abortion information. The proposed rule also threatens patient confidentiality by requiring family participation for younger patients. It adds onerous physical separation requirements, in addition to current financial separation requirements, for family planning providers who choose to make referrals for abortion services or provide abortions. In addition, the proposed rule undermines patient choice by no longer requiring Title X programs to offer the full range of effective birth control methods. Even worse, the rule lifts requirements that birth control methods be “medically approved.”

Title X was established in 1971 to ensure that all women in the country have access to birth control and other family planning services, and it remains the only federal grant program solely dedicated to family planning and related preventive health care services. Each year, roughly four million people rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care. In 2016, nearly 4000 Title X-funded centers provided 720,000 Pap tests, nearly one million breast exams and 1.2 million HIV tests. It is important to note that the Trump administration’s claim that this is a re-implementation and expansion of the Reagan-era domestic gag rule is incorrect.  Due to court proceedings, the rule was never implemented, and it was eventually withdrawn by the Clinton Administration after the medical community voiced grave opposition given the rule’s interference between the free exchange of medical information between patients and their providers.