Anti-abortion activists are increasing pressure on the Trump Administration to restore a Reagan-era “gag rule” that would prevent Title X recipients from talking about abortion services.
The restrictions, first introduced in 1988 by President Reagan, also require Title X recipients to be physically and financially separate from abortion providers. This would force Planned Parenthood and other clinics to either stop discussing abortions with patients or stop receiving federal funds. It would also block all clinics attached to abortion providers from receiving money under Title X.
The Title X Family Planning Program was implemented in 1971 in order to help low-income women pay for family planning services such as STD testing. While Title X funds cannot be used for abortions, they can flow to clinics that also offer abortions. Planned Parenthood currently accounts for about 40% of Title X funds.
Cutting Planned Parenthood’s access to taxpayer money would be a huge win for the GOP ahead of midterms, when the party’s majorities in the House and Senate will be at risk.
According to a list compiled by White House Political Director Bill Stephen, every single Republican in a competitive House race is pro-life. HHS Secretary Alex Azar has already received letters from more than 200 GOP Congressmen pushing for the changes.
“The life issue is a huge motivator for the Right,” notes pro-life activist Kelly Marcum. “Getting a win on the pro-life side, even if it’s regulatory rather than legislative, would be huge, and encourage people to come out and vote for the members who pushed for action on this…It’s a way to wiggle away at Planned Parenthood federal funding, and a way to reinforce the idea that abortion is not family planning.”
Unfortunately the life issue is also a motivator for the Left, which insists the gag rule would restrict access to reproductive healthcare.
“We strongly oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the Title X program and harm the millions of people who rely on it for care,” reads a letter signed by 45 Democrats. “Federal health policy should be evidence-based and produced with the best interests of patients in mind.”
Planned Parenthood affiliates in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Utah are suing the Trump Administration over its consideration of the gag rule, which they insist is specifically designed to defund Planned Parenthood and to benefit clinics that promote abstinence over contraception. “Such an unjustified loss of Title X funds would be a disaster for the low-income patients,” said the affiliates.
The ACLU filed a similar lawsuit against the Trump Administration on May 2nd.
“We’ve seen dramatic examples of what happens when states like Texas and Indiana tamper with family planning funds,” says ACLU President Clare Coleman, “substantial numbers of people are deprived of healthcare they want, resulting in significantly higher rates of sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancy.”