Warner, Kaine express opposition to gag rule on Title X

Mark Warner, Tim Kaine on continuing resolutionU.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) joined more than two hundred of their Senate and House colleagues in sending a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar expressing opposition to the implementation of a domestic gag rule on Title X, the only federal grant program solely dedicated to family planning and related preventive services.

This new gag rule would interfere with doctors’ ability to provide patients information about reproductive care. According to reports, President Trump could direct HHS to implement the rule as early as this month.

Each year, roughly four million people rely on Title X-funded health centers for basic preventive health care, including cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection screenings, pregnancy testing, and well-woman exams that include breast and pelvic examinations along with a pap smear. In Virginia, more than 140 health centersrely on Title X funding. In keeping with longstanding legal, ethical and medical standards of health care, Title X providers can offer patients medically accurate counseling on and referrals for all pregnancy options-including parenting, adoption, and abortion.

“The domestic gag rule would bar patients from receiving information to support their ability to make informed decisions about their own reproductive health,” wrote the Senators. “We strongly oppose efforts to undermine the integrity of the Title X program and harm the millions of people who rely on it for care. Federal health policy should be evidence-based and produced with the best interests of patients in mind.”

Reinstatement of the gag rule, which has never been fully implemented, would be President Trump’s latest attempt to fulfill his pledge to “defund Planned Parenthood,” whose health centers serve 40 percent of the patients who go to Title X for contraceptive care. If Planned Parenthood were eliminated as a Title X-funded provider, other Title X-funded health centers would have to expand their contraceptive caseloads by an average of 70 percent. The move would disproportionately impact communities of color, the uninsured, and low-income individuals, and could reverse progress made in critical areas. Title X has helped women avoid 822,000 unintended pregnancies, which would have resulted in 387,000 unplanned births and 278,000 abortions. Title X also yields critical cost savings to the American healthcare system – every dollar invested in Title X saves more than seven dollars in Medicaid-related costs.

Nearly two-thirds of Title X patients have incomes at or below the federal poverty level, and 43 percent of patients are uninsured. In 2016, nearly 4,000 Title X-funded health centers provided 720,000 Pap tests, nearly one million women with breast exams, and 1.2 million HIV tests. Title X providers offer confidential, medically accurate, and evidence-based care. Implementing a domestic gag rule would do enormous harm to the millions of patients across the country who count on the high standard of medical care provided by these health centers.

 

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