Planned Parenthood Illinois rejects Trump Title X 'gag rule'
‘We will not compromise our ethics or our patients’ health,’ says President Jennifer Welch
By Ted Cox
Planned Parenthood of Illinois rejected long-dreaded changes to a critical government health program Friday put forth by the Trump administration.
Joining Planned Parenthood’s Federation of America, Illinois President Jennifer Welch released a scathing statement in response to newly published funding cutoffs announced as part of the Title X program providing health care to those who can’t afford it. President Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services set forth new rules forbidding any firm receiving Title X funding from even discussing abortion with a patient, and they take effect 60 days after being posted in the Federal Register, barring any court action to halt or delay enactment.
“As the rule text stands today, Planned Parenthood of Illinois will not accept any Title X funding because we will not compromise our ethics or our patients’ health,” Welch said. “The gag rule further stigmatizes and silos reproductive health care in a way that we don’t see in any other health care.”
Nationally, Planned Parenthood issued a statement saying it believes it was deliberately targeted by Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, a longtime opponent of reproductive rights.
“Since day one, the Trump-Pence administration has aggressively targeted the health, rights, and bodily autonomy of people of color, people with low incomes, and women,” said Emily Stewart, vice president of public policy for the national organization. “We’re going to fight this rule through every possible avenue. It was grassroots action that defeated attempts by Trump and Republican leadership to repeal the Affordable Care Act and block care at Planned Parenthood. And now, thanks to that same incredible grassroots power, we have a slate of reproductive health champions in Congress. Voters across the country have charged lawmakers with protecting our health and rights — and given them the power to do it.”
“As the rule text stands today, Planned Parenthood of Illinois will not accept any Title X funding because we will not compromise our ethics or our patients’ health.”
Jennifer Welch, president of Planned Parenthood of Illinois
Planned Parenthood believes it was targeted because it serves 41 percent of the 4 million people treated in the Title X program annually. Those figures hold for Illinois, where according to a 2015 study Planned Parenthood makes up 18 percent of the available facilities in Title X, but treats 50,000 patients a year under the program, 42 percent of the state total and more than any other agency.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois and the national organization have been preparing for the Title X cutoff since Trump announced the proposed rules changes last year, but that didn’t mean they were taking the “gag rule” lying down.
“The gag rule is unconscionable and unethical,” said national President Dr. Lena Wen after the new rules were formally released Friday. “This rule compromises the oath that I took to serve patients and help them with making the best decision for their own health. Patients expect their doctors to speak honestly with them, to answer their questions, to help them in their time of need.
“Imagine if the Trump administration prevented doctors from talking to our patients with diabetes about insulin,” Wen added. “It would never happen. Reproductive health care should be no different. Reproductive health care is health care and health care is a basic human right.”
The national organization issued a news release stating: “The administration has put health-care providers like Planned Parenthood in an impossible position: withhold information from patients or get pushed out of a program designed to ensure that people struggling to make ends meet can still access birth control, (sexually transmitted infection) testing, cancer screenings, and other essential reproductive health care.
“The rule also imposes cost-prohibitive and unnecessary ‘physical separation’ requirements on health centers that also provide abortion in an effort to stop Planned Parenthood from participating in Title X,” the organization added.
The American Medical Association and other major health organizations came out against the rule change, and according to Planned Parenthood more than 500,000 comments were posted opposing the change on government websites during a mandated public-comment period.
“Dozens of physician groups, nursing associations, and public-health leaders have risen up in opposition to this gag rule because politicians have no role in the exam room,” Wen added. “As health-care providers, it’s our job to provide evidence-based, accurate information to our patients. Know this — Planned Parenthood will always be here for our patients. We won’t ever withhold medical information from our patients, and we won’t stop ever fighting for everyone’s ability to access the fundamental right to health care.”
The organization also suggested the policy changed was racially discriminatory, in that most Title X patients “identify as people of color, Hispanic, or Latino, and it’s impossible to separate this attack on their health care from the other attacks this administration has leveled on families with low incomes and people of color,” including voter suppression and Trump’s insistence on a border wall with Mexico.
“All patients, regardless of income, should have access to the best medical care and information possible,” Welch said. “The gag rule keeps patients from having all their options. This gag rule will leave people without care.”