President Donald J. Trump’s new proposed rule on Title X-supported programs is effectively a gag rule that will harm millions of women and families.
It’s a highly partisan attack on reproductive rights that’s part of a larger pattern involving Republican politicians inserting themselves between women and their medical providers.
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.
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 it, 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 an awful choice between accepting federal funding and providing their patients with comprehensive information and services.
Title X was established in 1971 to ensure that all women in the country have access to birth control and other family planning services. It remains the only federal grant program solely dedicated to family planning and related preventive health care services.
Each year, roughly 4 million people rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care. In 2016, nearly 4,000 Title X-funded centers provided 720,000 Pap tests, nearly 1 million breast exams and 1.2 million HIV tests.
Federal law already prohibits the use of government funds to support abortions or abortion-related services, so why is this edict – which would go further and yank federal funding from any facility offering or referring out for those services – being issued now?
Women’s reproductive health is under attack in this country in many ways, from cuts to funding for Teen Pregnancy Prevention programs to the never-ending cycle of congressional efforts to end federal support for Planned Parenthood.
Ironically and sadly, these efforts undermine programs that help prevent unintended pregnancy and help women avoid altogether the difficult choice of whether to have an abortion.
Republicans have also pushed for a ban on abortions after 20 weeks, making the Hyde Amendment permanent, and broadening moral and religious objections for providers and employers to deny providing certain health services and benefits such as contraception.
Every woman should be able to make her own decisions about reproductive health care with dignity and respect—and without politicians, employers or anyone else interfering.
Here’s one particularly egregious recent example of such interference: The Trump administration has tried time and again to prevent immigrant minors in federal shelters from accessing safe and legal reproductive health services.
We know of several well-publicized cases, but we fear that other women currently in detention may be facing similar injustices.
This is an outrageous abuse of government power.
And so is the president’s new domestic gag rule. It’s merely an attempt to take away women’s basic, constitutionally-guaranteed rights to control choices for their own bodies.
It will hurt women and their families.
That is why it cannot stand.
Because this is a proposed rule, there will be a comment period during which the public can weigh in. We can count on groups that support women’s rights, medical providers, the uninsured and the medically underserved to contribute their views, along with myriad individuals who at some point in their lives have turned to a Title X-funded facility for care.
But beyond that, Congress has some legislative options, which I’m discussing with colleagues in the Pro-Choice Caucus now.
This ought to be something on which people on both sides of the political aisle can agree. After all, Title X has served so many of our constituents for more than three decades; it has touched two generations of lives all across this country, and has the potential to improve countless more for generations to come.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, unintended pregnancies in this country are at a 30-year low – and we’re at a historic low for pregnancy among teenagers. Think about what this means to the lives of so many girls and women – and think about how programs like Title X that provide access to contraception help these women and girls from having to confront the prospect of having abortions.
Ironically enough, the steps we’ve taken in this country to guarantee women’s access to safe, reliable reproductive health care that have led to these historic lows are the very steps that are under attack by Republican leadership and the Trump administration.
This is not the time to walk that progress back.
Diana DeGetteDiana Louise DeGetteNebraska Republican tests positive for COVID-19 in latest congressional breakthrough case The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Voting rights week for Democrats (again) Maryland Democrat announces positive COVID-19 test MORE represents Colorado’s 1st District to Congress, is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee, and is co-chair of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus.