WASHINGTON, DC — Today Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL), chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, abruptly cancelled a scheduled vote on the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) subcommittee’s spending bill, after learning that Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) planned to ask for a vote to reverse the harmful Title X “gag rule,” a regulation opposed by a bipartisan majority of the committee and a majority of the American public.
Statement from Jacqueline Ayers, Vice President, Government Relations & Public Policy, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
This is a shocking and disgusting display by Chairman Shelby, Leader McConnell, and Republican leaders who are desperate to hide the fact that the Trump administration’s Title X gag rule is deeply unpopular. The overwhelming majority of Americans believe that we should have access to birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing. Chairman Shelby knows that if he tries to hold up our nation’s budget over blocking access to birth control and cancer screenings, it’s a fight he will lose.
"We thank Senator Murray for making it clear that Democrats and Republicans should stand together and insist that Title X be protected in any spending bill moving through Congress.
“The Trump administration’s gag rule is already hurting patients across the country. This isn’t a partisan issue, this is birth control, cancer screenings, and STI screenings. This is standard reproductive health care. Senators have a duty to protect their constituents. It’s time for Chairman Shelby and Republican leadership to stop playing politics with reproductive health care, and allow a vote to reverse this deeply harmful gag rule right away.
On August 19th, Planned Parenthood Federation of America announced that the Trump administration had forced Planned Parenthood grantees out of Title X, the nation’s decades-old bipartisan program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, through an unethical gag rule. Planned Parenthood health centers have been a part of the program since it was created nearly 50 years ago, and have been the largest provider, serving 40 percent of all patients who get care through the Title X program.
In March of 2019, Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association sued the Trump administration to block the Title X gag rule. Although three district courts in the circuit blocked the rule, in July of 2019, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the rule to take effect. Those cases are ongoing, with the 9th Circuit scheduled to hold oral argument on September 23. Once HHS said it was enforcing the rule, Planned Parenthood grantees stopped using federal funds but did not withdraw from the program, continuing to serve patients while seeking relief from the 9th Circuit. However, on Friday, August 9, HHS informed Planned Parenthood grantees that they had until August 19 to provide HHS with a plan to comply with the unethical gag rule, or they would be forced out of the program.
In June, the House of Representatives passed a spending package including strong language blocking the Trump-Pence administration’s Title X gag rule from being implemented. Now, the Senate must push for a spending bill that includes protective language to make sure millions of people can continue to access health care through Title X.
Title X has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades, and has been an incredibly popular and effective program. Millions of people depend on the Title X program each year. It’s meant to ensure that those struggling to make ends meet, or who don’t have health insurance, can still access birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and annual exams. The majority of patients in the Title X program identify as people of color, Hispanic, or Latino. This program is meant to cover gaps in health care access and affordability — especially for people living in rural or underserved areas.
Planned Parenthood plays an essential role in the Title X program, serving approximately 40 percent of the 4 million patients who get care through Title X health centers — that’s more than 1.5 million patients. In many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of affordable reproductive health care, or the only provider that offers specialized care like on-site IUD services or the birth control shot. People who can’t find or can’t afford another reproductive health care provider may be left with nowhere to turn, or go without birth control altogether. Even in areas where other providers are present, the providers often lack the capacity to serve additional patients. Community health centers themselves say there is no way they could fill the gap. The idea that other providers could absorb Planned Parenthood’s patients has been resoundingly dismissed by experts. In fact, Dr. Georges Benjamin, the executive director of the American Public Health Association, called the idea “ludicrous." In fact, many of the lists of “replacement” providers don’t even provide reproductive health care. In Louisiana, the state list of alternative providers included dentists and nursing homes. In Florida, it included school nurses. In Ohio, it included food banks. This may put affordable health care out of reach for many underserved communities, including communities of color and rural communities.
The medical community, public health experts, and the general public are against this rule. In addition to the American Medical Association, the gag rule has been opposed by major medical associations, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, as well as 110 public health organizations, and public health experts such as former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, and many others. A group of 19 different medical organizations, mayors, state lawmakers, over 200 Members of Congress, newly elected Democratic governors, and several other governors have opposed this legislation as well.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, as well as the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With more than 600 health centers across the country, Planned Parenthood organizations serve all patients with care and compassion, with respect and without judgment. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable health information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives.