Opinion | Healthcare

Title X helped me finish my education, but what about others?

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

In 1981, I joined Planned Parenthood as a full-time staff member and never left. I worked first as a community educator and then as president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Utah - a role I have filled for more than 30 years. But even before I made Planned Parenthood my life's work, I was a patient. 

That was in the 1970s, when I was a University of Wisconsin student. I received services thanks to a new federal program created under the direction of President Richard Nixon and George H.W. Bush, that provided low-cost reproductive health care to people without insurance or who couldn't otherwise afford health care services on their own.  

That program was Title X, the national family planning program, designed to help people access basic reproductive health care like birth control and cancer screenings. As a young student, this program was a godsend. It meant I could get the affordable birth control I needed so I could finish my education. 

Today, more than four million people rely on affordable birth control and reproductive health care services through Title X. Many of these people don't even know Title X exists, but without it they wouldn't be able to access this essential care. 

The basic preventive health-care services provided by Title X include: wellness exams, lifesaving cervical and breast cancer screenings, birth control, contraception education, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and HIV testing.

Here in Utah, Planned Parenthood has been the sole grant recipient of Title X funds for 35 years. Last year, more than 39,000 Utahns received affordable services at Planned Parenthood thanks to the Title X grant. In the decades we have been the steward of this grant, we have become experts at making the most of every dollar and making sure our patients have access to care.  

We make sure that our clinics are open when people need it. We make sure they can walk in or easily get an appointment. We make sure that we have bilingual staff and translators as needed. 

Now, under the Trump-Pence administration, the very purpose of Title X has been gutted - replaced by the politicizing of reproductive health care. This program that has done so much good for the health of our nation will now cease to fulfill its original mission.  

With Trump's gag rule in place, Planned Parenthood and other health-care providers would have been forced to no longer provide our patients with all the information they deserve. This is untenable and unethical. We can not participate in a program that forces health care providers to withhold information from their patients. 

It is unconscionable that even public health professionals within the Trump administration would rationalize their way to this dangerous gag rule. It is all political. And it leaves Utah (and many other parts of our nation) without care through Title X. 

I am mourning the loss of what Title X has been for 50 years, and I am heartbroken that this administration is ruining the most successful public health program of the last century. Congress has the power to stop this. It's time for the U.S. Senate to act to pass a spending bill that will reverse the harmful rule and restore access to birth control.

In the meantime, Planned Parenthood will still be here. We will do all we can to keep providing affordable health care for the people who need us. Planned Parenthood of Utah has saved our pennies from the many generous donors who have stepped up since Trump was elected - we will do all we can to not make patients suffer. 

We are committed to making sure people can realize their dreams by having accessible, compassionate health care that respects them and their ability to live their best life - no matter what. 

Karrie Galloway is the president of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah and Planned Parenthood Action Council. She leads the statewide reproductive health care movement that has worked for nearly 50 years to build a healthier Utah.