Columns, Opinions

Grundy ’20: New Trump rule threatens Planned Parenthood

By
Staff Columnist
Tuesday, March 19, 2019

At the end of February, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a new rule known was the “domestic gag rule,” which will severely impact the availability of family planning resources in the United States, particularly for low-income individuals.

The rule affects the Title X Family Planning Program, which was first enacted under the Nixon administration in 1970 and provides funding for basic primary and preventative reproductive health needs. The federal grant program alots funding toward health clinics such as Planned Parenthood for wellness exams, cancer screenings, birth control, contraception education and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. But President Donald Trump released the final draft of a new HHS regulation that will cripple these service providers.

The regulation, which will go into effect in about a month if its enactment is not slowed by legal challenges, will bar federal tax funding to Planned Parenthood — which serves more than 4.9 million people annually — and similar women’s health clinics who offer abortions, or abortion counseling and referral, unless they completely separate their abortion businesses from their other family planning services. This would mean separating infrastructure, staff and resources, essentially rebuilding the over 800 existing affiliate Planned Parenthood health centers across the country or risking the loss of all Title X funding that gives socioeconomically marginalized women access to reproductive healthcare.   

Whether or not one is pro-life or supports a woman’s right to choose, everyone should care about access to necessary healthcare. We cannot let bureaucratically imposed policies like this rule alteration further disenfranchise individuals already struggling to access the basic right to healthcare. As a campus of young adults who claim promote awareness of privilege and work to better the lives of low-income communities, we should do all we can to prevent the erosion of the progress made thus far to support affordable healthcare for all Americans.

This rule change is supported by pro-life conservatives who object to their tax dollars going to clinics that provide abortions. But contrary to popular misconception, there is no direct federal funding allocated to Planned Parenthood or similar clinics. Instead Medicaid and Title X funding works like insurance for individuals who must rely on these social programs, reimbursing these clinics for the medical services they provide. This funding is crucial to Planned Parenthood, as over 60 percent of their patients don’t have private health insurance. Thus, the misleading political slogan “defund Planned Parenthood” wrongly implies that Planned Parenthood was ever granted direct subsidies. Further, clinics are never reimbursed by the federal government for abortion services.

This regulation is an attack on the primary reproductive health clinics in the nation, simply because abortion is one of the services they provide.

This rule puts the reproductive health and futures of so many of our country’s already marginalized women, particularly low-income women of color, into the hands of privileged male politicians. These politicians — who don’t directly face the consequences of the policies they create — should not have the primary say in deciding which procedures and resources women have access to. The realities of low-income life in the United States are harsh, and the government’s role should be to alleviate hardship where they can. Not only does Planned Parenthood provide necessities like birth control, cancer screenings and STI testing, but they also offer important learning resources about healthy intimacy to young men and women who may not normally have access to such knowledge. They also offer emergency contraception and rape recovery counseling, which are rape crisis services essential to all people and should not be denied due to financial restrictions

It is estimated that Planned Parenthood health centers help prevent over 500,000 unintended pregnancies annually. In addition, when Texas passed legislation in 2011 that drastically cut family planning spending, it caused 82 clinics in the state to close and increased the costs for birth control pills, intrauterine devices and other primary care. In doing so, low-income women lost access to valuable resources. Limiting access to reproductive healthcare isn’t productive and only leads to higher rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections and undiagnosed cancers.

In response to the rule change, Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association have decided to sue the Trump administration. They assert that the rule “will politicize the practice of medicine and the delivery of healthcare” and “cause patients to lose faith in their providers and the health care system as a whole.”  Low-income individuals, especially minority populations and non-English speakers, already often feel like they cannot trust medical professionals — a key barrier to receiving healthcare. Policies like this will only worsen healthcare disparities. The potentially disastrous effects of this rule make clear we should not appease anti-abortion political groups, and we must make sure to push against their political imperatives by amplifying the voices of the marginalized who will feel the concrete impacts of this policy.

Access to reproductive health is not a distant political fight to many students here. As young adults, these programs are directly valuable to us, and barring federal funding from them may also have disastrous impacts on the reproductive health of members of our own communities. For example, the health fees Brown students pay do not cover STI testing; because STI tests can be very expensive, Planned Parenthood and similar clinics are important resources for students. We must work to challenge this rule for the sake of not only the futures of the disadvantaged in distant communities but also for ourselves and our peers.

 

Miranda Grundy ’20 can be reached at miranda_grundy@brown.edu. Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.