Home Health Senators Warner, Kaine Oppose Domestic “Gag Rule” on Title X

Senators Warner, Kaine Oppose Domestic “Gag Rule” on Title X

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From Sen. Tim Kaine and Sen. Mark Warner:

WARNER & KAINE EXPRESS OPPOSITION TO DOMESTIC GAG RULE ON TITLE X
New gag rule would interfere with doctors’ ability to provide patients information about reproductive care ~
*Click here to see a list of Va. health centers that receive Title X funding*

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined more than two hundred of their Senate and House colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar expressing opposition to the implementation of a domestic gag rule on Title X, the only federal grant program solely dedicated to family planning and related preventive services. This new gag rule would interfere with doctors’ ability to provide patients information about reproductive care. According to reports, President Trump could direct HHS to implement the rule as early as this month.

Each year, roughly four million people rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection screenings, pregnancy testing, and well-woman exams that include breast and pelvic examinations along with a pap smear. In Virginia, more than 140 health centers rely on Title X funding. In keeping with longstanding legal, ethical and medical standards of health care, Title X providers can offer patients medically accurate counseling on and referrals for all pregnancy options-including parenting, adoption, and abortion.

“The domestic gag rule would bar patients from receiving information to support their ability to make informed decisions about their own reproductive health,” wrote the Senators. “We strongly oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the Title X program and harm the millions of people who rely on it for care. Federal health policy should be evidence-based and produced with the best interests of patients in mind.”

Reinstatement of the gag rule, which has never been fully implemented, would be President Trump’s latest attempt to fulfill his pledge to “defund Planned Parenthood,” whose health centers serve 40 percent of the patients who go to Title X for contraceptive care. If Planned Parenthood were eliminated as a Title X-funded provider, other Title X-funded health centers would have to expand their contraceptive caseloads by an average of 70 percent. The move would disproportionately impact communities of color, the uninsured, and low-income individuals, and could reverse progress made in critical areas. Title X has helped women avoid 822,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 387,000 unplanned births and 278,000 abortions. Title X also yields critical cost savings to the American healthcare system – every dollar invested in Title X saves more than seven dollars in Medicaid-related costs.

Nearly two-thirds of Title X patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, and 43 percent of patients are uninsured. In 2016, nearly 4,000 Title X-funded health centers provided 720,000 Pap tests, nearly one million women with breast exams, and 1.2 million HIV tests. Title X providers offer confidential, medically accurate, and evidence-based care. Implementing a domestic gag rule would do enormous harm to the millions of patients across the country who count on the high standard of medical care provided by these health centers.

The full text of the Senate letter can be found here and below.

Dear Secretary Azar,

We are writing today in support of the Title X family planning program (Title X) and to express our strong opposition to any changes to Title X that would restrict access to affordable, high-quality and lifesaving reproductive healthcare in communities across the country.

Title X is the nation’s only federal program dedicated to providing family planning services to low-income and otherwise underserved individuals. Each year, roughly four million women, men, and adolescents rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection (STI) screenings, pregnancy testing, and well-woman exams. Nearly two-thirds of Title X patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, and 43% of patients are uninsured. In 2016, nearly 4,000 Title X-funded health centers performed 720,000 Pap tests, provided nearly one million women with breast exams, and administered 1.2 million HIV tests. Title X providers offer confidential, medically accurate, and evidence-based care, ensuring that patients receive the highest standard of medical care.

In addition to providing care to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals, Title X yields critical cost savings to the American healthcare system. Every dollar invested in Title X saves more than seven dollars in Medicaid-related costs. By helping individuals obtain the preventive services they need, Title X advances the health and well-being of individuals, families and our nation as a whole while saving taxpayer dollars in the process.

In keeping with longstanding legal, ethical and medical standards of healthcare, Title X providers offer patients medically accurate counseling on and referrals for all pregnancy options—including parenting, adoption and abortion. The Title X program has never funded abortion services at its health centers. Health centers that receive Title X to provide family planning care may also separately provide abortions using non-federal funds.

In spite of the critical role that Title X-funded health centers play in promoting the health and wellbeing of millions of people, President Trump may seek to dramatically reduce the reach of Title X by reinstating the “domestic gag rule,” which was first issued under the Reagan administration but was never fully implemented.  This “gag rule” would bar patients from receiving information to support their ability to make informed decisions about their own reproductive health. This means that the millions of patients who obtain care at Title X-funded health centers annually would be denied the ability to receive complete and accurate information about their medical options, including counseling on, and referrals, for abortion. On top of the ban on counseling and referrals, the “gag rule” would impose additional requirements intended to bar providers from participating in Title X that also separately provide abortion services.

Calls to reinstate these policies directly acknowledge this effort as an opportunity for President Trump to fulfill his pledge to “defund Planned Parenthood,” whose health centers remain an essential part of the family planning safety net, serving 40 percent of Title X patients. In reality, other providers of Title X-funded care would face immense challenges in attempting to absorb the patients that would lose access to care if Planned Parenthood were eliminated as a Title X-funded provider. According to recent analyses, other Title X-funded providers would have to expand their contraceptive caseloads by an average of 70 percent just to maintain access to contraceptive care at current levels.

A “domestic gag rule” would have a devastating impact on the overall Title X network and the millions of individuals who rely on it for care. This move would disproportionately impact communities of color, the uninsured, and low-income individuals, and it could reverse progress made in critical areas. For example, unintended pregnancy rates in the U.S.—including those among teenagers—have been declining.  We cannot threaten to reverse this progress by crippling Title X: in 2015 alone, the contraceptive services supported by Title X helped women to avoid 822,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 387,000 unplanned births and 278,000 abortions.

We strongly oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the Title X program and harm the millions of people who rely on it for care. Federal health policy should be evidence-based and produced with the best interests of patients in mind.

Sincerely,