What Trump’s Domestic ‘Gag Rule’ Means for Reproductive Health Care

This is an op-ed by author Lauren Rankin on reports that the White House is expected to reinstate restrictions that would cut federal funding from many reproductive care providers in the U.S.

Today, the Department of Health and Human Services is reportedly announcing a sweeping change to Title X, the federal grant program that provides urgently needed funds for family planning services to organizations across the country. Dubbed the “domestic gag rule,” the new policy would essentially be a national version of the federal government’s insidious “global gag rule,” which forbids international health care providers from providing, counseling on, or even mentioning abortion if they want to receive U.S. funds. This latest move by the Trump administration would bar health care providers who provide abortion or discuss it with patients from receiving any federal family planning money.

This means providers would be faced with a choice: either stop providing or talking about abortion or no longer receive Title X funds, which could force them to cut back on services or even close their doors.

This ruling would be a serious escalation in this administration’s attack on women’s reproductive rights, further indicating that it is hell-bent on eroding access not only to safe and legal abortion but birth control and other basic reproductive health care services. It’s only the latest development in this administration’s horrifying record of undermining reproductive rights, which includes gutting the Affordable Care Act’s birth control mandate and attempting to block undocumented young people from accessing abortion.

The domestic ‘gag rule’ shows the Trump administration is hellbent on
eroding access to basic reproductive health care services.

You may not know about Title X, but if you or anyone you know has ever accessed birth control from Planned Parenthood, you have been a beneficiary of this nearly 50-year-old federal program. Signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, Title X is the only federal program dedicated to family planning services, and it specifically focuses on helping low-income, underinsured, and uninsured individuals access affordable care. Planned Parenthood reports that more than four million people rely on Title X funding every year, and 41 percent of them are Planned Parenthood patients.

CHICAGO, IL - MAY 18: A motorist passes a Planned Parenthood clinic on May 18, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The Trump administration is expected to announce a plan for massive funding cuts to Planned Parenthood and other taxpayer-backed abortion providers by reinstating a Reagan-era rule that prohibits federal funding from going to clinics that discuss abortion with women or that share space with abortion providers.

A Planned Parenthood center in Chicago, Illinois.

Getty Images

The “gag rule” would bar doctors, nurses, and other health care providers at federally funded organizations both from providing abortion and from providing any information about it, potentially forcing them to lie to their patients. For example, if a pregnant woman goes to her health care provider to inquire about an abortion, her provider could be prohibited not just from referring her to an abortion provider but from answering basic questions about the procedure.

Beyond that, this policy would have a profoundly harmful effect on the more than four million people who rely on Title X, and not just for family planning. Many of them are low-income women with nowhere else to turn for care. Title X doesn’t just provide high-quality family planning services and information; it also provides preventative care for people who otherwise lack health care access, including wellness exams, cancer screenings, and more.

In a statement emailed to members of the press, Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), said: “Everyone has the right to access information about their health care — including information about safe, legal abortion — and every woman deserves the best medical care and information, no matter how much money she makes or where she lives. No matter what. They won’t get it under this rule.”

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 21: Right to Life advocate Linda Heilman prays during a sit-in in front of a proposed Planned Parenthood location while demonstrating the group's opposition to congressional funding of Planned Parenthood on September 21, 2015 in Washington, DC. The Right to Life groups who took part in the protest are also calling on Pope Francis to