Judges Say Trump Abortion 'Gag Rule' Super Legal And Super Cool
In one of the latest battles in the war on women, a federal appeals court gave its stamp of approval to the Trump administration's domestic gag rule late last week. The Ninth Circuit decision gives the go-ahead to a new regulation that will close medical clinics around the country and prevent women from getting the healthcare they need.
What's a "Title X"?
Title X was enacted in 1970 to help low-income people access family planning and reproductive healthcare. It provides grants to health care providers offering services like wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screening, birth control, and STD and HIV testing.
Today, the Title X program provides grants worth more than $286 million to healthcare providers around the country. Almost 60 percent of women and more than four million patients annually rely on Title X to get the reproductive healthcare they need.
As described by Planned Parenthood,
Federal Title X funding helps ensure that every person — regardless of where they live, how much money they make, their background, or whether or not they have health insurance — has access to basic, preventive reproductive health care.
So what does the gag rule do?
After taking office, Trump enacted some anti-abortion bullshit to appease Mother and Father Pence and his evangelical base. One such piece of shit is what's commonly called the domestic gag rule.
Section 1008 of Title X and the Hyde Amendment already prohibit federal funds from being used to pay for abortions, but that just isn't enough for people who like to control women's bodies. So we got this — a fun, Regan-era limitation on healthcare for people with uteruses that daddy and baby Bush didn't implement during their terms.
Trump's gag rule has a few different requirements designed to screw over women, people with uteruses, and health care providers. The rule prohibits doctors receiving Title X funds from making referrals for abortion care, even if requested by a patient. But it doesn't stop there! The gag rule also prohibits doctors from "encouraging or promoting" abortion (whatever that means). And it, for no medical reason whatsoever, requires women's health clinics to keep their Title X services "physically and financially separate" from any abortion-related services.
Unsurprisingly to public health professionals, gag rules have been shown to actually increase the number of abortions by taking family planning services like birth control and contraception education away from people who need them. (But that's fine to politicians, since this has never really been about protecting fetuses, anyway.)
Trump's rule has been roundly opposed by public health experts and pretty much everyone who cares about the rights of people who can get pregnant. As noted by Planned Parenthood,
The medical community, public health experts, and the general public are against this rule. In addition to the American Medical Association, the gag rule has been opposed by major medical associations, like the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, as well as 110 public health organizations, and public health experts such as former U.S. surgeon general Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, and many others. A group of 19 different medical organizations, mayors, state lawmakers, over 200 Members of Congress, newly elected Democratic governors, and several other governors have opposed this legislation as well.
Healthcare providers serving nearly half of Title X patients have stated that Trump's gag rule will force them out of the Title X program completely. Dr. Leana Wen, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told PBS News Hour why the rule would force Planned Parenthood to withdraw from the Title X program:
[The gag rule] compromises the oath that I took when I became a doctor. You can't be telling patients, well, I can't give you referrals, go look at the Internet yourself. I mean, that's just not appropriate. It's preventing us — it's having President Trump and the Trump administration telling doctors what we can and cannot tell our patients about their health options . . . .
Planned Parenthood will not accept gag funds. We will never force our physicians and nurses to censor themselves.
And we would never ask our patients to come to a health center that provides them with incomplete and inaccurate medical information.
Why is this a thing?
The gag rule's primary defender in the Trump regime is Diane Foley, Department of Health and Human Services deputy assistant secretary for population affairs. In her role at HHS, Foley will have the final say on which organizations will receive Title X funds. Previously, this decision had been made by a group of HHS officials.
Before joining the federal government, Diane Foley was the president and CEO of the anti-choice "Life Network," an organization that exists to trample on reproductive freedom and spread lies about abortion. Life Network also operates two so-called "crisis pregnancy centers," religious organizations that try to trick pregnant women into continuing unwanted pregnancies.
So this is all just great.
At a House committee hearing last week, Foley tried to gaslight Congress and the American people, arguing that her gag rule was not a gag rule at all. Her testimony was quickly refuted by people who actually know what they're talking about.
The domestic gag rule rule was challenged by Planned Parenthood, the American Medical Association, and a coalition of 20 states and the District of Columbia, among others. Earlier decisions blocked its implementation, but late last week, a conservative panel of the Ninth Circuit reversed course.
The Ninth Circuit's decision allowed the ban on referrals and abortion counseling to go into effect immediately almost everywhere in the country. (An injunction issued by a federal court in Maryland remains in effect in that state.) Clinics that provide both family planning and abortion services have until 2020 to comply with the completely unnecessary physical separation requirement.
Legal challenges will continue, but in the meantime, the gag rule will hurt millions of Americans, especially those who live in rural areas with few healthcare providers. As noted by BuzzFeed,
For large swaths of rural America, the ramifications could be severe. In Maine, for example, 85% of the state's abortion clinics would be forced to shutter, according to a lawsuit filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights. Currently, Maine Family Planning, the state's largest reproductive health care group and only organization that received Title X money, has 18 clinics across the state.
The new law would reduce that number to one, leaving close to 24,000 people with only a single facility to turn to for reproductive health care.
Dr. Wen from Planned Parenthood had this to say about the decision:
The Trump-Pence administration's gag rule is unethical, illegal, and harmful to public health. The news out of the 9th Circuit this morning is devastating for the millions of people who rely on Title X health centers for cancer screenings, HIV tests, affordable birth control and other critical primary and preventive care.
Planned Parenthood will not stand for this attack on millions of people across the country. We will be immediately seeking emergency relief from the Court of Appeals. Planned Parenthood will not let the government censor our doctors and nurses from informing patients where and how they can access health care. We will continue to fight the Trump administration in the courts and alongside champions in Congress to protect everyone's fundamental right to health care.
This battle is likely to end up in front of the Supreme Court by the time all is said and done — where we'll all have to hope against hope that John Roberts manages to do the right thing.
Baby Jesus, save us all.
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