(New Haven, Conn.)––Today, the Trump-Pence administration’s unethical and dangerous gag rule has forced Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) out of Title X, the nation’s decades-old, bipartisan program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care. Across the country, Planned Parenthood health centers have been a part of the program since it was created nearly 50 years ago—in Connecticut, PPSNE has served as the state’s Title X recipient since the program’s inception.
Nationally, Planned Parenthood has been the largest Title X provider, 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 more.
“Let’s call this ‘gag rule’ what it is: the Trump-Pence administration’s misogynistic, racist, cruel attempt to deny our country’s most vulnerable communities access to life-saving reproductive health care,” said Amanda Skinner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England. “Complying with this shameful, unethical rule would force our providers to mislead and lie to our patients about their health care options, including the right to access safe, legal abortion. Trump is setting a dangerous precedent by allowing politicians to mandate what information health care providers can give their patients. We won’t be gagged, we won’t be silenced, and we won’t stop fighting to make sure everyone can access the care they need.”
“While the courts refuse to safeguard the fundamental of spirit of Title X—keeping contraception and family planning services affordable for all—we must rely on our champions in Congress to act now to protect health care access for millions of people,” said Skinner. “Our doors are still open today, and they will be open tomorrow. While the Trump-Pence administration may have given up on people with low incomes, we never will.”
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 of 2019, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the rule to take effect. Those cases are ongoing, with the Ninth Circuit scheduled to hold oral arguments 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 Ninth 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.
The courts are not the only place where the gag rule is being challenged. 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. This is the time for Congress to act.
Across the country, 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 people. 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 an IUD insertion 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 care. 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 if Planned Parenthood stopped serving Title X patients. 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." This may put affordable health care out of reach for many, especially communities of color and rural communities.
This gag rule is just another in a series of racist, xenophobic, misogynistic attacks to vilify reproductive and sexual health care and make it harder for people in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and across the country to access the care they need. Planned Parenthood of Southern New England won’t stand by as the Trump-Pence administration attempts to deny people their human right to health care.