The move would leave many low-income patients with nowhere else to go for affordable birth control and sexual health screenings.
The Trump administration is one step closer to achieving its long-sought goal of gutting Planned Parenthood's federal funding, which would needlessly hamper access to quality medical care for millions of women and men.
The Department of Health and Human Services on Friday announced a radical policy change that could strip funds and block more than 4 million patients from receiving care — including 1.6 million who go to Planned Parenthood health centers — in order to send that money to faith-based health care organizations that are anti-abortion.
HHS made the rule change without studying the rule's full impact. House and Senate Democrats strongly objected to HHS's rushed process — but their request for caution and measured analysis fell on deaf ears.
The rule changes Title X, the only federal program dedicated to making sure low-income Americans can get affordable family planning services, by blocking its funding from going to health care providers that either perform abortions or give their patients referrals to get abortions elsewhere.
It's effectively a gag rule that prevents doctors from offering their patients all of the medical advice they have to give — and seeks to hamper women from receiving the abortions they are legally allowed to obtain.
Title X funds already can't be used for abortion; they cover other family planning services like contraception and sexual health screenings. Planned Parenthood serves 41 percent of the 4 million people who rely on Title X for this reproductive health care, most of whom are people of color under 30.
And because Planned Parenthood serves a lot more patients and offers more services than many other Title X providers, kicking the organization out of Title X would leave many low-income patients with nowhere else to go.
Dr. Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the gag rule "unconscionable and unethical."
"Patients expect their doctors to speak honestly with them, to answer their questions, to help them in their time of need," Wen said in a statement. "Imagine if the Trump administration prevented doctors from talking to our patients with diabetes about insulin. It would never happen. Reproductive health care should be no different. Reproductive health care is health care and health care is a basic human right."
Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, similarly bashed the Trump administration's dangerous new rule.
"Trump’s gag rule creates a country where a culture of forced silence dominates over women’s health, barring them from accessing the essential care they deserve; a country where women can’t continue to visit their trusted providers for healthcare; a country where doctors will be forced to hide information from patients," Hogue said in a statement.
The new rule is almost certain to be challenged in the courts.
However, a similar change to Title X during former President Ronald Reagan's administration was upheld by the Supreme Court. The only reason the changes weren't implemented was because former President Bill Clinton's administration scrapped the rule after its implementation was repeatedly delayed.
Trump's relentless quest to deny women their basic rights to health care and bodily autonomy continues on.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.