Why You Should Care About the Trump Administration's 'Domestic Gag Rule'

As you may have heard, on February 22, 2019, changes to Title X funding were released by the Department of Health and Human Services, and these changes are being referred to as a "domestic gag rule." In short, these changes will prevent institutions, such as hospitals and clinics, that provide abortion services or abortion referrals from receiving Title X funding. As a medical scribe and Planned Parenthood volunteer, I know exactly how detrimental this decision is for women and healthcare in general, which is why I feel the need to inform you of what exactly this decision means and why you should care. 

So first off, what is Title X? Title X is a federal grant program which focuses specifically on family planning and reproductive health care. To put it simply, think of it as being a little bit like Medicaid, but specifically for reproductive health care. Many low-income individuals rely on Title X in order to access quality reproductive healthcare, but I would like to specify that Title X funding does not cover abortions, and it never has.

Under the Trump administration’s "gag rule," institutions that provide abortions or abortion referrals would not receive Title X funding at all for any service that they provide. This is incredibly alarming, as many clinics and hospitals receive a significant amount of their funding from government programs such as Title X and Medicaid. Under such a rule, these institutions would take a major financial blow, and many would decide to stop offering abortions or abortion referrals at all to avoid that.

For the institutions that do continue to offer abortion services and abortion referrals, patients who rely on Title X funding would not be able to get the services that they need. On top of that, the providers at such institutions could take a massive pay cut, and many would leave the institutions for other practices that either do not provide abortion services or only accept private insurance in order to avoid that (and rightfully so, seeing as how the average medical school debt is somewhere around $200,000). As you can see, this rule would severely limit both the availability of safe abortions and the availability of reproductive healthcare in general, especially for low-income individuals. 

When thinking of reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood is probably the first institution that comes to mind, but it's important to note that they will not be the only institution affected. While Planned Parenthood will arguably be hit the hardest by the "gag rule," as they serve 41 percent of Title X recipients, any institution that provides abortions or abortion services will forgo Title X funding under the "gag rule." It's also important to note that "abortion services" in this context even means simple information about abortions, so it’s easy to see that many institutions, including the hospital that I work at, will be affected by this rule. 

All in all, the "gag rule" is not outright banning abortion, but it's drastically limiting the accessibility to safe abortion. It's also limiting access to birth control, cancer screenings, STD screenings, pap smears and an abundance of other reproductive-related healthcare services to low-income individuals.

If you are looking for a way to help, you can start by supporting these institutions that provide reproductive health care services. If you’re in a position to donate to organizations such as Planned Parenthood, then absolutely consider doing so, so that they can continue to provide quality care in spite of the "gag rule." If you’re not in a position to monetarily help out, just letting your voice be heard can also go a long way. Together we can fight the good fight for reproductive justice. 

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