Politically motivated funding changes limit access to reproductive health care services at family planning clinics
Planned Parenthood. I like the name. I like the concept. Planning your family. Planning to be a parent. As many of us know, being a parent is a serious and life-long responsibility. This responsibility brings some of the greatest joys and worries we can experience.
Therefore, doing our best to ensure that we, as individuals or as a couple, are in the best position to support, nurture and care for children is a good and laudable way to approach parenthood.
Interestingly and unfortunately, Planned Parenthood gets caught up in the debate on abortion care with little to no recognition by some that their services are much broader and much deeper and necessary.
However, due to the actions of the current federal administration, all of the services of Planned Parenthood have been placed in jeopardy.
Title X and the Gag Rule
Title X is the nation’s federal family planning program, created under the Nixon Administration to ensure access to affordable birth control and reproductive health care. Planned Parenthood has participated in the program since its inception, and has been the largest provider in the program, serving 40 percent of all Title X patients.
Services under Title X include diagnostic exams, pap tests, breast cancer screenings, pregnancy testing, birth control, sexually transmitted infections (STI) and HIV screening and treatment.
Under the new rule affecting Title X grantees, clinics now have to draw a “bright line” between abortion care services and all other services such as: separate accounting, physical spaces, staff, contact info, patient health records, etc. Previously, clinics that received Title X grants for family planning services were able to offer abortion care services with separate, non-federal funding, in the same facility, by the same staff.
Clinics are now prohibited from referring patients to abortion care providers unless patients state a desire to terminate their pregnancies, unprompted by clinic staff. Additionally, clinic staff, are now able to refuse to refer patients to abortion care providers if they personally object to the procedure on “moral” grounds. Previously, all options had to be discussed with patients during pregnancy counseling, including the option to terminate.
The domestic gag rule, as these new prohibitions are referred to, also prohibits Title X funded institutions from referring patients for abortion care.
Because it has been illegal to use federal funds for abortion care, Title X grants have never been used to pay for abortion care. Requiring Title X clinics to have a separate physical space, separate accounting, separate staff, etc. places an insurmountable—and undue—burden on family planning clinics that also provide abortion care.
Could a significant burden be the intent of this rule? The cynical side of me says yes. After all, I have seen any number of attempts to not only limit but severely limit access to abortion care during my 5 terms in the PA House. These attempts included requiring an ultra sound (which in most instances would be a transvaginal ultra sound) before a woman could access abortion care services and former Governor Corbett’s infamous response to ‘just close your eyes’ if you did not want to see anything; to trying to require abortion care providers to obtain privileges at a local hospital; and requiring that abortion care facilities meet the same requirements as ambulatory surgical centers which did become law.
The domestic gag rule is having consequences for the patients who rely on Planned Parenthood and other abortion care providing family planning clinics for their subsidized health care services.
The funding that came from Title X into Pennsylvania is just short of $3 million. Those dollars clearly subsidized healthcare for many citizens, women, and men alike. Zero of those dollars were ever used for abortion care.
Please know, I have stood, and been consistently outspoken, for a woman’s right to choose. I firmly believe that this decision is not a decision that should involve the local, state or federal government.
It is interesting that those who refer to themselves as pro-life assume that if someone is pro-choice, they are pro-abortion. Pro-choice is the ability for an individual to assess their personal and private situation and to make the best decision for their situation.
As always, your thoughts and comments are most welcome.
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