On June 26th, Bridgercare ED Stephanie McDowell joined Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights advocates in Billings to protest the proposed Gag Rule.

The proposed Gag Rule would make it it illegal for doctors, nurses, hospitals, community health centers, and any other provider in the Title X program to tell patients how they can safely and legally access abortion. This is opposed by the medical community, lawmakers, and public health experts. Major medical associations, like the American Medical Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, and others oppose this rule. Across the country, 73 percent of Americans oppose Administration actions like the domestic gag rule.

Listen to Stephanie’s Speech here (starts at minute 8:25).
Read more about the Billings Rally here.
Want to learn more about the proposed Gag Rule, check out this great (and short) article.

Read Stephanie’s Speech Below: 

My name is Stephanie McDowell, Executive Director at Bridgercare, Bozeman’s family planning center.

First, I want to thank Martha and Laura from Planned Parenthood for inviting me to speak today.  At Bridgercare, when a patient would like a referral for an abortion, we trust that when we provide information about PPMT, our patients are receiving compassionate, high quality care.  Thank you for all you do for our patients.

Bridgercare is a safety-net healthcare provider for over 6000 people in south central Montana.  It is vital that the care we provide is based on ethical and accurate medical practices.  Our patients simply depend on it and trust the care we provide is free of ideological influence so they can make medical decisions that are best for them.

The proposed Gag Rule interferes in this doctor-patient relationship and violates basic medical ethics by forcing medical professionals to knowingly withhold information from their patients.

The American Medical Association states in its Code of Ethics that providers “present relevant information accurately and sensitively, in keeping with the patient’s preferences” and that “withholding information without the patient’s knowledge or consent is ethically unacceptable.”

Furthermore, Am College Ob & Gyn recently reiterated that all providers, even those who personally object to abortion, “must provide the patient with accurate and unbiased information about her medical options and make appropriate referrals.”

Patients rely on their medical providers to get accurate and complete information about their health care options.  This rule would do the opposite.

A gag rule would be a radical departure from the way health care has operated in the United States up until now.

The gag rule has never been implemented in the United States before.  The Reagan administration tried to implement something similar, but was later retracted by the Clinton administration after intense outcry from the medical community.

We’ve seen what happens when access to unbiased reproductive healthcare is reduced — services are cut, health centers are forced to close, and women are forced to go without care.  This would result in increased maternal mortality and unsafe abortions.

The Title X program is there to help 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, such as birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams.

In the US, places like Bridgercare and Planned Parenthood serve 4 million people each year — many of whom would otherwise be unable to access this health care.  It would be impossible to replace our nation’s family planning program.

Community health centers themselves say there is no way they could fill the gap if Planned Parenthood and family planning health centers were no longer allowed to serve these patients.

The idea that other providers could absorb family planning and Planned Parenthood’s patients has been resoundingly dismissed as we learn that many of the “replacement” providers listed don’t even provide reproductive health care.  The list of alternative providers includes dentists, nursing homes, school nurses and food banks.  This is unacceptable.

And right now, the U.S. is at a 30 year low for unintended pregnancy, and a historic low for pregnancy amongst teenagers — largely because of expanded access to birth control.

This attack on Title X doesn’t make sense when you see the positive results that family planning clinics turn over year after year.  Let’s not undo that progress!

Bridgercare stands with you and Planned Parenthood of Montana when we reject this gag rule, alongside the medical community, lawmakers and public health experts.

Thank you for being here today and standing strong!