Family planning health centers across the country have received wonderful news. As of April 25th, the “Gag Rule” has been injuncted! You may be wondering, come again? What’s the big deal? It means that, although the Gag Rule was set to be put into effect on May 3rd, it has now been blocked nationwide and cannot be implemented by anyone. This is fantastic news for Bridgercare and the medical community at large.
If you’re still in the weeds, let’s dive into this a bit more. The Gag Rule is a policy put forth by the current federal administration that would affect the Title X program and those who rely on it. Title X was established back in 1970 and distributes federal funding for health centers (like Bridgercare! And places like health departments and Planned Parenthood clinics) to provide contraception, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other preventative services to 4 million people every year. It’s the gold standard for quality, patient-centered family planning and sexual health, and the program equalizes access to birth control for everyone regardless of income or economic status. For anyone looking for confidential, affordable, preventative health care, they know they can come to a Title X-funded health center and be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.
The Gag Rule, however, would devastate Title X’s long-standing legal and ethical requirement to provide accurate information about abortion, prenatal care and adoption. Instead, it would prohibit Title X clinics from even discussing abortion, even when the patient requests it, and only allow Title X clinics to offer information and referral for adoption and prenatal care. This is a violation of the patient and doctor relationship and a patient’s right to medically accurate, private information.
This would cripple a patient’s ability to make fully informed decisions about their own health. In the Title X program, patients’ values and unique health care needs come first, but this rule would intentionally upend the non-coercive principle that has been the bedrock of this program for almost 50 years.
This is where the good news come in, though! The US District Court for the Eastern District of Washington granted the motion of the America Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA) for a preliminary injunction of the Title X final rule (whew, that’s a mouthful). After three hours of oral argument, Judge Stanley Bastian issued his rule and the injunction was put in effect immediately. This prevents anyone from enforcing any aspect of the rule across the country for the time being!
The Gag Rule will be locked up in the courts for a while, but until further decisions are made, it cannot be implemented. Bridgercare will continue to oppose this destructive policy. As Bridgercare’s Executive Director, Stephanie McDowell, has said: “A gag rule would be a radical departure from the way health care has operated in the United States up until now. 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!”