February 22, 2019

Congressional pro-choice leaders blast White House over newly announced Title X rule

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Trump administration issued a final rule today aimed at barring health care clinics that provide abortion services from participating in a $236 million federal family-planning program, known as Title X.

The newly finalized rule not only prohibits health care clinics that receive Title X funds from providing abortion services, it also prohibits them from even referring a patient to receive such services. It’s the latest in a series of attacks on women’s reproductive rights by the Trump administration, which has long stated its ultimate goal of ending legal abortion in the U.S.  

The rule’s most immediate effects would be felt by groups such as Planned Parenthood, which currently receives about $60 million a year from the Title X program, but would no longer receive any federal funding from the program if it doesn’t agree to stop providing abortion care.   

Immediately after the rule was announced, leaders of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus – U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) – issued a joint statement condemning the change and blasting the White House for inserting itself between providers and their patients.

“This is a gag rule, plain and simple,” DeGette and Lee said. “And it’s being put in place by an administration determined to stop providers from even using the word abortion when talking to their patients. The White House has no business censoring what a doctor says to their patients. Despite being touted as a political win for this administration and its supporters determined to eliminate women’s reproductive rights, this rule will do irreparable harm to millions of women and families across the county by limiting their access to safe, comprehensive reproductive health services.”

Title X is the nation’s only federally funded family planning program, and opponents of the Trump’s administration’s new rule argue that it will undermine health care access to the four million women, men and children who receive their health care at centers that receive Title X funding.

As a result of the administration’s newly finalized rule, any clinic that continues providing abortions, discussing abortion as an option, or referring a patient elsewhere to receive such services will no longer be eligible to receive grant funding through the Title X program.

Opponents of the rule say it will force health care providers, who treat underserved communities nationwide, to choose between continued federal funding or helping women exercise their constitutionally-protected rights to reproductive choice. They also argue it will disproportionately hurt minority populations because the majority of patients who receive care at a Title X-funded center are low income or people of color.  

Among the groups who have publicly voiced opposition to the changes are some of the most prominent health care groups in the country – including the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American College of Nurse-Midwives, and the American College of Physicians.

Also opposed are hundreds of federal, state and local elected officials, including more than 200 members of Congress, 15 governors, 13 Attorneys Generals, 80 mayors and 274 state legislators.

Title X was established in 1971 to ensure that all women in the country have access to birth control and other family planning services. Each year, roughly four million people rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care such as Pap tests, breast exams and HIV tests.

While many of the changes announced today by the administration won’t take effect for at least another 60 days, several Congressional committee leaders are already working closely with members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus to determine what Congress can do to block the new rule from taking effect.