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Stop the Title X gag rule to retain comprehensive reproductive care for all

Dr. Erin Stevens
Dr. Erin Stevens
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.

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Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 03/01/2019 - 10:26 am.

    Abortion isn’t family planning nor reproductive care. It’s the killing of a human. Family planning should be teaching people how to not get pregnant and never need an abortion in the first place.

    Money is fungible. By giving money to an organization to do X, the govt is enabling them to use their own funds to do Y instead. So yes, govt money is used for abortions because it frees up the organization’s own funding to actually perform the abortions. Just like driving a bank robber to the bank.

    • Submitted by Ray Schoch on 03/01/2019 - 10:56 am.

      Sorry, Mr. Barnes, but abortion is BOTH family planning AND reproductive health care. I certainly agree that family planning “…should be teaching people how to not get pregnant and never need an abortion in the first place,” but in this culture we generally don’t do that, often for religious reasons, and that public information failure too often translates to both policies and rhetoric that’s both hostile to women and hostile to the expression of human sexuality in general, despite the fact that it’s arguably the most quintessentially human activity there is.

      Indeed, money IS fungible, and when I contribute to a nonprofit I’m well aware that my contribution can be used for any purpose that nonprofit sees fit. I’m OK with that. If you’re not, then your response is easy – don’t support the organization financially. Failing that, I’m not aware of any statute that grants you the authority to determine what is best for other people in the realm of sexuality and reproduction, particularly for women. Once you’ve gotten pregnant ahd / or given birth, then your arguments will have some credibility.

      • Submitted by Sheila Kihne on 03/02/2019 - 12:54 pm.

        Abortion is NOT family planning. What a ridiculous thing to say.

        With all the major methods of birth control, combined with that fact that there are only about 3-6 days per menstrual cycle where a woman is able to conceive where you may abstain from sex. Pro-Choicers must assume women are too stupid, lazy, or irresponsible to plan for their families without taking a life.

        62 MILLION lives lost to abortion at any time, any place, for any reason. The ultimate social justice issue. The ultimate race issue. To paraphrase Mother Theresa, if a mother can kill her own child, what hope do you have to end other violence in society? The love that is denied that mother, the life that is denied that child. The absolute callousness toward human life is a travesty. What common ground can we possibly find on any other issue, when people can so flippantly say any/all abortion should be legal including after birth?

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 03/01/2019 - 02:37 pm.

      Abortion is a legal procedure. No matter how much men may disapprove of it, it is lawful for a woman to have an abortion.

    • Submitted by Vicki Barnes on 03/01/2019 - 04:10 pm.

      Women are 14 times more likely to die in childbirth than in a legally induced abortion. You will never stop abortions – they have always been around. You have no right to tell women to risk their lives for an unplanned pregnancy. Stay out of our healthcare and mind your own business.

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