Pandemic has amplified gag rule’s harm — Biden-Harris administration must move swiftly to restore access to affordable sexual and reproductive health care
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released proposed regulations to end the Title X gag rule. Since 2019, former President Trump’s gag rule has undermined the Title X program and denied people across the country access to affordable reproductive health care, such as birth control and life-saving cancer screenings, through the program.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president & CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“Planned Parenthood applauds President Biden, Vice President Harris, and HHS for moving to end the Title X gag rule — and beginning to restore access to affordable, essential reproductive health care. In less than two years, the gag rule has forced providers out of the program and decimated patients’ access to affordable birth control, STI testing, cancer screenings, and more. Due to centuries of systemic racism and injustice, the rule has disproportionately harmed people of color and people with low incomes, all at a time when access to affordable preventive health care has never been more critical. We stand ready to mobilize our partners, and Planned Parenthood’s 17 million supporters, to swiftly end this discriminatory policy and to create a pathway for health care providers that were forced out by the gag rule to re-enter the program, so that patients can once again obtain health care through Title X from trusted community providers.”
The proposed regulations released today, when finalized, will end the Title X gag rule and make other modifications to strengthen the program and better ensure access to equitable, affordable, client-centered, quality health care services for patients under Title X. In the coming days, a 30-day comment period will allow the public to underline the harm the gag rule has wrought and emphasize why it must be ended as swiftly as possible.
As the nation’s only federal program dedicated to providing affordable birth control and other reproductive health care to people with low incomes, Title X is a critical piece of our social safety net that can, and should, help ensure equitable access to essential health care. Title X grants fund services like birth control, contraceptive counseling, STI treatment, breast and cervical cancer screenings, pre-pregnancy care, and more.
In 2019, the Trump administration finalized the domestic gag rule to prohibit Title X providers from referring patients for abortion. In just under two years, it slashed the Title X network’s patient capacity nearly in half, creating unacceptable barriers to affordable care. Six states no longer have any Title X providers. Before the Trump administration implemented the gag rule, Planned Parenthood health centers served approximately 40% of the program’s 4 million patients. After the gag rule, the patients receiving Title X services were forced to find new providers, or stopped receiving critical care entirely.
Title X disproportionately serves Black, Latino, and Indigenous patients, patients with low incomes, and patients in rural areas. Because of centuries of systemic racism and inequities, people from these communities have always faced daunting barriers to getting the health care they need. Systemic racism and other inequities have also caused these communities the most harm from the COVID-19 pandemic, including a death rate of double or more that of white Americans and disproportionately harsh economic hardship.
Access to sexual and reproductive health care is inextricably tied to health and safety during the pandemic. After the close of the comment period, the Biden-Harris administration must move to swiftly end the gag rule and ensure the Title X program is able to meet people’s needs. This would be urgent in any environment, but it is all the more urgent as we continue to struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s leading provider and advocate of high-quality, affordable health care for all 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, striving to create equitable access to health care. Through health centers, programs in schools and communities, and online resources, Planned Parenthood is a trusted source of reliable education and information that allows people to make informed health decisions. We do all this because we care passionately about helping people lead healthier lives. Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that supports the independently incorporated Planned Parenthood affiliates operating health centers across the U.S.