Title X and the Repercussions of This Regulation

                                                                      Photo courtesy of Photopin

When President Trump was elected and throughout his years of presidency, one of the topics he wanted to tackle was Planned Parenthood. His election of Supreme Court Justice Kavanaugh brought about concerns on what would happen with Roe v. Wade, there was initial speculation that he would use that as a way to get to Planned Parenthood.

Last Friday, I was in my California Politics class and my friend hit my arm and showed me an article on her phone about the final draft of a rule that makes changes to Title X. Title X is a federal program that provides birth control and other reproductive health services to millions of low-income Americans. It serves approximately 4 million people annually. The final rule ensures compliance, in particular, for the statutory prohibition on funding programs where abortion is a method of family planning. According to the HHS website, the updated rule is meant to ensure a holistic and health-centered approach and to safeguard the short- and long-term family planning needs of more women, men, and adolescents in need of services.

                                                                        Photo courtesy of Unsplash

The rule was actually proposed last year and has been popular with President Trump's socially conservative supporters. Defunding Planned Parenthood has been a goal that anti-abortion-rights activists have consistently encouraged lawmakers to pursue. The vice president of government affairs, Tom McClusky, stated that abortion is not part of family planning and as such, those "services should be separate and even have separate facilities."

On the other hand, abortion-rights supporters call the regulation a "gag rule" which will result in a severe lack of communication between doctors and pregnant women about options including abortion. The regulation, under the guise of protecting the patient/healthcare provider relationship, "removes the requirement for abortion referral and replaces it with a prohibition on referral for abortion as a method of family planning." Abortion referrals are only allowed for conditions deemed medically necessary.  

The president of Planned Parenthood told NPR that withholding information about abortion violates medical ethics. "As a doctor, this compromises the oath that I took to serve my patients and hep them with making the best decisions for their own health...It's unconscionable and unethical for politicians to restrict doctors like me from speaking honestly to our patients," Dr. Leana Wen. 

Planned Parenthood and other groups like them would be forced to refuse Title X fund and in result, the number of locations where low-income women and other recipients who can receive reproductive health care would decrease. Instead the funds would go to faith-based and other organization that promote fertility awareness and abstinence as methods of family planning. In 2017, Title X grants made up about 19% of revenue for participating clinics. These grants cover the direct costs of family planning services as well as general operating costs, including staff salaries, staff training, rent, and health information technology. The regulation even redefines low-income to include women who receives employer-sponsored insurance offered by an employer who refuses to cover contraceptives in their plan fue to religious or moral objections.

One in three low-income women obtained birth control from clinic-based providers like Planned Parenthood. If the regulations are fully implemented, low-income women that rely on Title X locations for their family planning care would face major repercussions. The network of providers that offer low-income women comprehensive family planning services would be limited. The clinical standards of family planning care would be weakened. 

These regulations would have a serious impact on a group of people who already have limited access to resources. As such reproductive rights groups are expected to fight the regulations in court.                                                                     Photo courtesy of Photopin