The Trump-Pence administration has finalized a “gag rule” preventing Title X funding for institutions where abortion may be performed or where health care providers even discuss the option of termination of pregnancy with patients. As Title X is the national family-planning fund that helps low-income individuals obtain important reproductive health care services — including cancer screenings, birth control, STD testing and treatment, and vaccinations — this is deeply worrisome to us as OB/Gyn physicians. Abortion is legal, research continually supports the safety of the procedure and the harms of obstructions to access, and absolutely no Title X funding ultimately covers abortion services. It is wrong to hold essential medical services hostage over provision of and counseling about one subset of care.
We know that Title X has been essential for providing Minnesotans with critical health care services for more than 40 years, currently serving 53,000 Minnesotans – including 51,000 Planned Parenthood patients — across 31 locations. This longstanding assistance has supported the strong public health infrastructure that keeps Minnesota one of the healthiest states in the nation and has no doubt contributed to the steadily declining rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion in our state.
Political obstruction can affect health outcomes
Other states have shown us the detriments of political obstruction to reproductive health care access. Texas experienced increased rates of unintended pregnancies and maternal deaths after Planned Parenthood was excluded from state funding. Cuts to public health funding led to the closure of Planned Parenthood facilities in Indiana as well, thus eliminating the only HIV testing center in Scott County just prior to an HIV epidemic originating there. This likely prevented early detection of HIV cases and administration of prophylactic medications to high-risk individuals. A fully developed country like the United States should not have the health care of its citizens compromised by political decisions such as these.
The new Title X rule would mandate health care providers at facilities funded by Title X nationwide to either unethically withhold information from patients or to stop receiving the funding that allows them to provide other components of comprehensive reproductive health care, neither of which is a safe or practical option. The rule would intervene in the trusted patient-provider relationship, stratify abortion as an option only available to people of certain means, and further block access to important reproductive health care services for many individuals. The rule would not change how abortion is funded as no Title X money covers abortion services.
Patients in all circumstances deserve compassionate care and counseling on all options available. We as physicians in Minnesota hope you will join us in ensuring that everyone can access the reproductive health care they need from providers they trust. We urge you to contact your legislators, the United States Department of Health and Human Services, and/or the White House to stop the Title X gag rule.
Dr. Erin Stevens is an OB/Gyn physician practicing at Clinic Sofia in Edina. She is a member of the Legislative Committee and Advisory Council of the Minnesota Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). The following 11 physician members of the Minnesota Section of ACOG also signed on to this statement of opinion: Christy Boraas, MD, FACOG; Beth Elfstrand, MD, FACOG; Lisa Erickson, MD, FACOG; Siri Fiebiger, MD, FACOG; Cresta Jones, MD, FACOG; Bridget Keller, MD, FACOG; Kristin Lyerly, MD, FACOG; Jill Miller, MD; Elizabeth Slagle, MD, FACOG; Todd Stanhope, MD, FACOG; and Sally Zanotto, MD.
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)