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Chairs Rosa DeLauro and Nita Lowey introduce House Labor-HHS appropriations bill that halts Title X gag rule and protects access to vital, life-saving health care

(New Haven, Conn.)—Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations subcommittee included language (pg. 48-49) in the government’s annual budget bill to protect Title X, the nation’s dedicated program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care, from the Trump-Pence administration’s illegal and unethical domestic gag rule. The “Title X Protection” makes clear that Congress holds authority for the Title X program and will not fund the Trump-Pence administration’s new gag rule restrictions. Instead, Congress will only allow this funding to be used to carry out the program as it has been historically run for decades.

Title X helps 4 million people struggling to make ends meet––the majority of whom are people of color or people with low incomes––access birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing, and other essential reproductive health care. Since the Trump-Pence administration released the gag rule, there has been mass outcry from patients, medical providers, lawmakers, and public health advocates, including AIDS United, the American Medical Association, the Human Rights Campaign, and the American Public Health Association. Now, Congress is taking action to protect health care for people across the country––in fact, this bill also increases funding for the program by more than $100 million from last year.

“Let’s be clear: the Title X gag rule is a cruel, direct attack on our country’s most vulnerable communities and those who suffer the most severe inequities in our country’s broken health care system,” said Amanda Skinner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE). “The Trump-Pence administration needs to stop attacking patients and providers and instead work to increase access to health care. We are grateful for the leadership of our elected officials in Congress—especially Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations subcommittee—for fighting tirelessly on behalf of the people of Connecticut and the nation to protect the human right to health care.”

“Democrats are standing up for women’s health care by pushing back on the Trump-Pence administration’s dangerous attacks on family planning services, including abortion and contraception,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). “Women know what is best for them and their families much better than this administration. That is why we are fighting to protect Title X and the millions of patients who get care through this program in this year’s Labor-HHS funding bill.”

“The Title X gag rule is unethical, it’s dangerous, and it’s illegal,” said Dr. Leana Wen, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Planned Parenthood applauds our health care champions in Congress who are taking action to stop the gag rule and protect health care for the 4 million people who depend on Title X health centers. The ‘Title X Protection’ will help ensure that women and families who don’t have health insurance, who live in rural areas, and who are struggling to make ends meet can still access birth control, STI testing, cancer screenings, and other essential care. It will ensure that doctors, nurses, and clinicians can continue to uphold our oath to provide the best care possible to our patients. Together, we must send a clear message to the Trump-Pence administration: health care must be a fundamental right for all—not a privilege reserved for those who can afford it.”

The gag rule makes it illegal for health care providers in Title X to refer patients for abortion and blocks access to care at Planned Parenthood by imposing cost-prohibitive and unnecessary “physical separation” requirements. The gag rule would force providers to make the difficult decision between offering the full range of reproductive health care services without Title X funding or misleading patients about their care to continue participating in the program. Nearly 50 percent of the Title X network has made it clear that the rule would force them out of program––the administration is putting health care at risk for patients across the country.

Each year, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England serves more than 38,000 patients who rely on Title X funding—in Connecticut, 88% of Title X patients receive life-saving preventative and reproductive health care services at PPSNE health centers. Community health centers throughout Connecticut and Rhode Island say there is no way they can fill the gap if PPSNE was no longer allowed to serve the residents of Southern New England.

Congress has been clear for decades: Title X patients cannot be kept in the dark about their options, including abortion, if they receive information about their pregnancies. It’s written into the rules of the Title X program. Further, in 2010, Congress prohibited rules, like the gag rule, that create unreasonable barriers to care. Congress also made clear that it’s illegal to mandate rules that violate the ethical standards of health care professionals, as the gag rule does. The Trump-Pence administration ignored this law and pushed the gag rule forward anyway––that’s illegal.

In March, all Planned Parenthood affiliates and the American Medical Association filed suit challenging the gag rule for being illegal, unethical, and threatening the health care of millions of people who rely on Title X health centers. And just last week, three judges announced they will block the Trump-Pence administration’s domestic gag rule from taking effect on May 3, providing temporary relief for patients and providers while cases challenging the legality of the rule continue to be litigated. However, health care remains at risk for the 4 million people who rely on Title X. PPSNE will continue to fight the Trump-Pence administration in court and work with our leaders in Congress to ensure our patients’ rights are protected.