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Senator Blumenthal and Representative Larson stand with PPSNE and community activists to safeguard health care access and protect reproductive freedom

(New Haven, Conn.)––Today, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative John B. Larson, two leaders of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation, stood with Planned Parenthood and community activists at a press event to speak out against the Trump-Pence administration’s Title X gag rule. The gag rule makes it illegal for anyone receiving Title X funds to tell patients how and where to access safe, legal abortion and requires participating providers to withhold information about abortion from their patients. On Monday, August 23, 2019, all Planned Parenthood affiliates—including Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE)—were forced out of the Title X program for refusing to submit to the gag rule and mislead patients about their health care options.

Title X—the nation’s only program for affordable birth control and family planning services—has enjoyed bipartisan support for nearly 50 years, but the enforcement of the Trump-Pence gag rule has forced reproductive health care providers like Planned Parenthood out of the program. Nationally, Planned Parenthood has been the largest Title X provider in the country, serving 40 percent of all patients who receive care through the program. In Connecticut and Rhode Island, PPSNE serves more than 42,500 patients each year—the majority of whom are people with low incomes, people of color, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ+ community—who rely on Title X to access affordable birth control, STD testing, cancer screenings, and other life-saving preventive care.

“The Trump administration’s gag rule sets a dangerous precedent by allowing politicians to determine what providers can and can’t say to their patients. I am a nurse and a midwife, and I am appalled by the idea of the government intruding into the relationship between patients and their health care providers,” said Amanda Skinner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “Politicians do not belong in the exam room. We have not given up on our patients and will not gag our health care providers—our doors stay open, period.”

“People of Connecticut: now is the time to say we stand with Planned Parenthood,” said Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut. “We stand with our patients and with our health care professionals. This war on women’s health care is stupid, destructive, and just plain mean. I am determined that when we return, the first priority will be to overturn this gag order in the U.S. Senate.”

In response to the Title X gag rule, Congressman John B. Larson (CT-1) said, “The relationship with Planned Parenthood over the last 50 years has been nothing short of extraordinary and life-saving and nurturing to the American people, and to have this gag rule imposed by the Trump-Pence administration is just mean spirited. Thank you, Planned Parenthood, we do stand with you.”

In a statement, Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut responded, “Forcing Planned Parenthood out of Title X is a deliberate, targeted attack on women’s health. Over 64,000 women in Connecticut rely on Planned Parenthood for critical cancer screenings, STI exams, birth control and other reproductive care. Forcing clinics that provide full medical care and referrals to leave this program sets a harmful precedent and fails to put patients first. For nearly 50 years, this bipartisan program Congress created under Title X has made birth control and reproductive health care available to all women. This misguided policy decision takes us back in a dangerous direction, running contrary to the original intent of this program and allowing the political ideologues to govern which medical information health care providers can give their patients. This decision should be reversed immediately.”

In March of 2019, Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association sued the Trump-Pence administration to block the Title X gag rule. Although three district courts in the circuit blocked the rule, in July 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the rule to take effect. 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.

The courts are not the only place where the gag rule is being challenged. This year, the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations subcommittee—led by Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro—passed a spending package that rejects the gag rule. The full House took immediate action to safeguard Title X by passing the spending package in June. Now, the Senate must act to protect the health care of millions of people.

“The Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule is an ideological assault that reflects the administration and Republican’s lack of trust in women to make choices that are best for them and their families,” said Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3). “Changing the rules that govern Title X harms millions of people across the country—including the nearly 45,000 in Connecticut who rely on it. As Chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Appropriations subcommittee, I fought to ensure that language was included in our funding bill that prohibits the use of any taxpayer dollars to implement this cruel and heartless rule. I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood and the millions of Americans who depend on Title X for family planning services.”

Although abortion has never been covered by the Title X program, the Trump-Pence administration is willing to use misinformation about abortion to deny the country’s most vulnerable communities—especially people with low incomes and people of color—access to birth control, family planning services, and preventive care. The rule is a direct attack on reproductive freedom that prevents health care providers from presenting all available options to their patients. Amina Carter, a provider at the PPSNE health center in Hartford, said, “as a health care provider, I will not be gagged. Every person, regardless of their income, where they live, or the color of their skin, deserves accurate and complete information about their health care.”