Many of the 4 million patients who rely on federally funded clinics through Title X may find themselves unable to get medically accurate information and access to a full range of reproductive health services very soon. This is unconscionable.
The Title X program is the only federal grant program for reproductive health. It was started in an effort to ensure that every American could access high quality and free or affordable reproductive health care regardless of variables such as income, race, religion, education, or geography. It was started under President Nixon (a republican) in 1970 with broad bi-partisan support.
One of the cornerstones of the program is that it ensures medically accurate information and contraceptive choice; medical providers who accept these grants must comply with the federal regulations. And federal oversight ensures patients that providers are complying. Planned Parenthood (PP) affiliates receive Title X money as do other providers; PP serves about 40% of Title X patients. Title X money covers services including annual gynecological exams, pap smears, contraception, testing for STDs, HIV/AIDS, breast exams, pregnancy testing and non-directive pregnancy options counseling; it does not pay for abortions.
It’s a cost effective program: every dollar spent on Title X actually saves taxpayers seven dollars. And the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to make accurate information and effective contraception available to all.
However, the current administration has recently tried to change the regulations, including a ‘domestic gag rule’ that prohibits Title X providers from even referring patients to abortion providers. The new regulations could also result in faith-based organizations becoming eligible for Title X funds (our tax dollars), and they could steer patients towards certain contraceptive options (such as abstinence and fertility awareness-based methods) replacing another cornerstone of the program: contraceptive choice based on unbiased, medically accurate information. So the same federal government—our government—that once worked to ensure that all Americans had access to high-quality, confidential, medically accurate reproductive health services now plans to use our money to provide biased services and cut the highly effective services that have been proven to work.
This is outrageous, and PP, other organizations and more than 20 states have taken the administration to court. However, a judge last month ruled that while the legal cases are pending, Title X providers must comply with the proposed regulations or stop accepting the funds. PP refuses to withhold any information from its patients and is therefore not accepting the money.
Remember, while these changes will be enormous, they will only affect Title X (government funded) providers; those among us with money and/or private insurance will personally not be affected. So it will disproportionately impact the most vulnerable: the poor, the young, and people of color. Absolutely unconscionable.
I’ve been following this ongoing saga for months and I find it horrific. That said, considering how sweeping the impact of this will be it is alarming to me how little coverage it’s been given by the mainstream news organizations.
If you are as outraged by all of this as I am, please call your senators even if you’ve already called them, and ask them to protect Title X. (Below my signature you’ll find their phone number and a sample script.) In addition, in the short term, you can send donations to your local Title X provider. Also, Power To Decide recently launched “BCBenefits,” a contraceptive access fund. You can read about it and donate here.
In addition, please keep this issue on your radar; as you assess potential political candidates, find out their opinion about Title X. Talk about it with your friends and family. If you use social media, spread the word, make sure people are aware of what’s going on. We MUST keep reproductive health and rights for everyone on the front burner, always. It is fundamental. And we MUST hold our representatives accountable.
You can call your senator at 1-202-601-3441.
Before calling, please note that “Title X” is pronounced “Title Ten.”
“Hi, my name is __________ and I live in __________. As your constituent, I’m calling to urge you to protect Title X from all the proposed changes, including “the domestic gag rule.” These changes threaten access to vital reproductive health care services and education for millions of people across the country. I am also calling on you to use your position and your voice to call all your constituents’ and senate colleagues’ attention to just how important it is to protect Title X without any of the proposed changes. Please know that I will be watching this issue closely and your actions on this one issue will be critical to me as I face decisions about voting and donating money.
Thank you for your time.”