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Ninth Circuit Lets Title X Gag Rule Go Into Effect, Threatening Health Care for Millions

LOUISVILLE — This week, the administration’s Title X gag rule takes effect in every state but Maryland, after a ruling by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Just yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a spending package that would block the gag rule from being implemented because it’s dangerous, it’s unethical, and it’s illegal –– and now the Senate must act.

This gag rule makes it illegal for health care providers in the Title X program to refer patients for abortion, and also blocks access to care at Planned Parenthood by imposing cost-prohibitive and unnecessary “physical separation” requirements. Planned Parenthood has limited emergency funds that will allow affiliates to continue care for patients in the short term, while we seek further emergency relief from the Ninth Circuit. 

“This rule is unethical, illegal, and harmful to the health of Kentuckians, especially those with low incomes or living in rural areas,” said Tamarra Wieder, Kentucky Public Affairs and Policy Director. “Kentuckians already rejected a statewide gag rule, and we don’t need this administration working overtime to implement another one and dismantle access to reproductive health care and the life-saving care, including cancer screenings, HIV tests, affordable birth control, and other critical primary and preventive care. Right now, the Senate, specifically Senator Mitch McConnell, has an opportunity to protect access to health care for millions and uphold the bipartisan family planning program that has been in place for decades. Without this program, lives will be in danger.”

Kentuckians have already resisted this kind of cruel attack once before during the 2017 legislative session when a broad-based coalition of faith leaders successfully opposed the General Assembly’s attempts to pass HB 149 and SB 8. What Kentuckians knew then remains true now, a gag rule in the commonwealth would violate the sanctity of the clergy-parishioner relationship, as well as the doctor-patient relationship. Parishioners and patients across Kentucky, regardless of their income or zip code, deserve to be provided with every option available to them during pregnancy.

In many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of affordable reproductive health care or the only provider that offers specialized care like an IUD or the birth control shot. Even when there are other providers available in a community, they often don’t have the capacity to serve additional patients. ​Community health centers themselves say there is no way they could fill the gap.

Title X is a decades-old popular and effective program designed to ensure that everyone, no matter where they live, how much money they make, and whether or not they have health insurance, has access to basic preventive reproductive health care like birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, and well-woman exams. It has received bipartisan support from Congress since its inception. Every year it serves more than four million people, although many people who get care through the program may not even be aware that they are Title X patients.