Women with lower incomes and teenagers of all backgrounds could have fewer options for accessing birth control and other family planning services because of a new federal policy impacting 18 public health and nonprofit clinics in King County.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration today announced a final version of its new rules for the Title X Family Planning program for women who need assistance accessing contraception, cancer screening and other services, creating new requirements and rewriting the funding system for clinics. In addition, many health care providers would find themselves confronting a “gag rule” that prohibits them from referring any patients to abortion providers.
The new policy will have sweeping impacts on any providers who receive funding through Title X, one of the nation’s most successful health programs of the past half-century. Public Health—Seattle & King County credits Title X for helping it achieve one of the lowest teen birth rates for a county this size anywhere in the nation.
“In his attacks on women’s access to birth control and family planning, Donald Trump reached a new low. By gutting the Title X family planning program – despite resounding public comment to preserve it – the federal government is stepping between women and their health care providers,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine.
“We will fight back, and work with all our partners to do everything we can to stop the Administration from carrying out this cruel and immoral policy.”
The rule would likely redirect funds to groups that want to promote abstinence-only approaches.
Currently, the Title X program supports 18 Family Planning clinics in King County, operated by three agencies: Public Health—Seattle & King County, Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and Hawaiian Islands (PPGNHI), and Cedar River Clinics. They offer contraception and other critical reproductive health services, but Title X does not pay for abortions.
By imposing impossibly onerous restrictions on organizations that provide family planning services, the new rule will make it nearly impossible for these agencies to continue participating in Title X, which will reduce their capacity to serve people with limited resources, including teenagers.
The rule seeks to deter medical professionals from speaking about abortion, even though it is legal and otherwise available, prompting the American Medical Association and other leading medical groups to condemn it as a “gag rule.” This censorship puts medical providers in an impossible situation – having to withhold medical referrals from a patient who needs that guidance, or risk losing an entire source of funding. The rule also would eliminate the requirement to provide neutral, fact-based counseling.
Another example of the harm this rule will cause is that people seeking birth control will no longer be certain whether their clinic is offering or even discussing the full range of family planning methods and services, as that requirement is removed in the new rule.
“Make no mistake, this aims to undermine our family planning clinics – one of the most successful aspects of our health care system – and it is a direct threat to women’s health care,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health—Seattle & King County.
King County submitted a formal comment letter in July to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services – urging the agency to withdraw the proposal. Some highlights include:
• “We believe the proposal would be nothing short of disastrous for the overall local health system and particularly harmful to women in need of financial support for family planning services. The proposal threatens a system of Title X clinics in King County that has enabled us to lower the teen birth rate 60% below the national rate (.008 vs .020).”
• “Creating a two-tier health care system for women and teens: Lower income women and teens who rely on Title X services would be offered substandard care, because Title X providers would no longer offer the full range of: contraceptive methods, factual health care information, and referrals about pregnancy options. Women with higher incomes (who can access services outside of Title X clinics) would be offered a wider and more comprehensive range of services.”
• “Approximately a quarter of the women in King County are in need of publicly-funded contraception. Title X is their lifeline to health care that has lifelong benefits, giving women the opportunity to pursue their education and career goals.”
In his attacks on women’s access to birth control and family planning, Donald Trump reached a new low. By gutting the Title X family planning program – despite resounding public comment to preserve it – the federal government is stepping between women and their health care providers. We will fight back, and work with all our partners to do everything we can to stop the Administration from carrying out this cruel and immoral policy.
Make no mistake, this aims to undermine our family planning clinics – one of the most successful aspects of our health care system – and it is a direct threat to women’s health care.
For more information, contact:
Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966