Editorial: Trump’s gag rule unethical, harms women



A Planned Parenthood location in April 2017.

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

President Donald Trump has promised to defund Planned Parenthood, the nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health care worldwide, since his campaign trail. Two years into his presidency, he hasn’t managed to do exactly that, but he has passed a federal rule that greatly limits the organization’s ability to provide fully comprehensive health care.

His administration’s gag rule, passed Friday, will no longer give federal family-planning funding to organizations that refer patients to abortion services. It’s a rule that decreases women’s access to inclusive health care and promotes a dangerously edited education of all possible family-planning options.

Title X is the federal program that gives about $286 million annually to organizations and programs that provide a wide variety of health services, including abortion, breast and cervical cancer screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Planned Parenthood accounts for about 40 percent of the clinics that receive Title X funding each year.

The organization won’t be completely defunded, but the rule mandates that any organization that provides abortion services must do so at a separate clinic from where it provides its other services. This is in spite of the fact that clinics haven’t legally been able to use Title X funding to finance abortion since the passage of the Title X Public Health Service Act in 1970.

Organizations that don’t make the separation between abortion and non-abortion services will not receive federal funding. Those funds will instead go to faith-based organizations that are against providing birth control, contraceptives or access to abortions.

In areas where Planned Parenthood is the only option for a family-planning center, this rule threatens to shut down the only resources many women have to birth control, HIV services, pregnancy-related services, LGBT and men’s health care, STD treatment and general health care.

Those clinics that do keep Title X funding won’t be as beneficial — or as honest — to patients as they have been in the past. In fact, Dr. Jenn Conti, a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, wrote in a May 2018 statement that the then-hypothetical gag rule went against medical ethics.

“As a provider of comprehensive reproductive health care, it is my number-one priority to keep my patients safe and honor the trust they give me,” Conti said. “If my patient decides to have an abortion, I should be able to give them a referral to a high-quality provider.”

Prohibiting physicians from offering sensible medical recommendations is a direct attack on women. We should educate women on all their available options, rather than take information away from them.

“The government should be protecting Title X — a program designed to make sure that every person has access to basic, preventative reproductive health care,” Conti said in her statement. “It is critical to our nation’s health-care safety net that nonprofit clinics like Planned Parenthood participate in Title X.”

Everyone deserves the right to appropriate, comprehensive health care, and one of the most basic components of this right, which the gag rule takes away, is access to all the information health-care professionals can provide. Anything less than complete transparency is both unethical and inhumane.