Earlier this year, the Trump administration made changes to Title X, prohibiting medical clinics from referring patients to abortion services. Health care centers that are part of Title X are additionally required to be financially and physically separate from any clinic that refers or provides abortion services.
It’s a move that has been criticized by many within the medical community and reproductive rights activists. It is becoming known as the domestic gag rule.
The actions of the current administration undermine the ruling made by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade in 1973 which affirmed women are able to have abortions under the constitutional right to privacy. Inhibiting access to information on abortion and abortion services threatens a woman’s right to choose.
Even if a woman were to inquire about abortion, clinics are forbidden from telling her where to find abortion services which makes it an issue of free speech as well. It is unconstitutional for the federal government to regulate what can and cannot be said, and it should be especially concerning when the speech limitations are pertaining to an individual’s health and well-being.
This infringes on the doctor-patient relationship. It is difficult to build trust when your doctor does not share relevant information and fails to discuss all your medical options. Women deserve complete transparency when it comes to any matter relating to reproductive health.
Some health care centers have boldly decided to withdraw from Title X so they won’t have to comply with this gag rule. Doing so allows them to refer and offer abortion services, however, they will no longer receive federal funds through Title X.
Most notable among these providers is Planned Parenthood — which received the majority of Title X funds — will lose $60 million in federal funds from opting out of the program just a few weeks ago. While it was already illegal to use federal money to provide abortion services, this loss of funding will take from other vital services including pregnancy care, contraceptive care, STD testing and cancer screenings.
Planned Parenthood provides family planning health services to over 40% of Title X patients, many of whom come from low-income households or live in rural areas where these types of medical services are less accessible.
The extent to which Planned Parenthood will be impacted will depend on a state-by-state basis. While Planned Parenthood intends on continuing all of its services, patients should expect longer wait times to secure an appointment. This could be detrimental when it comes to matters that require immediate attention.
The gag rule is set to be reviewed by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at the end of this month.
The courts will have to reflect upon the abortion debate. Although that matter has already been settled in Roe v. Wade and should remain upheld, this is not just a pro-choice versus pro-life matter. The issue of free speech being threatened should be deliberated with vigilance. Additionally, the ramifications of limited family planning services and health care access must be taken into account.
Allowing for this gag rule to continue to go into effect would be a devastating blow for women across the nation. It is a restraint on safe abortions and other essential reproductive health care services that otherwise would not be available for millions of people across the nation.
It is imperative that reproductive health care is accessible to all women regardless of their financial situation or where they live. Women deserve to be provided with a health care system that fully informs and looks after the best interest of the patient.
Catherine Van Weele is a sophomore studying political science and economics. Follow her on Twitter @catievanweele.