Many of you have heard that the federal administration has implemented the Gag Rule, and you may have heard that Bridgercare is staying in the Title X program. And you might have some questions.
The Gag Rule is a policy from the current federal administration that affects the Title X program and those who rely on it. Title X was established back in 1970 and distributes federal funding for health centers across the country. These clinics provide contraception, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and other preventative services to 4 million people every year. It’s the gold standard for patient-centered family planning and sexual health, and the program equalizes access to birth control for everyone regardless of income or economic status.
The Gag Rule changes the way that providers can communicate with patients about their pregnancy options. In Montana, this means that providers can no longer tell a patient where they can access an abortion. Providers will still be able to offer comprehensive counseling options and medically accurate information about all three pregnancy options – parenting, adoption, and abortion. However, staff cannot provide information on locations that provide abortion care. Although information about pregnancy termination options can be found on the internet, Title X clinics in Montana are prohibited from communicating this information to patients over the phone or during a visit, unless the patient reports rape, incest or it is a medical emergency.
Additionally, Bridgercare’s federal funding was cut by 50% this year, which is a loss of $150,000.
Bridgercare is choosing to stay in the Title X program. It was a difficult decision, but because Bridgercare now sees over 45% of the entire state’s Title X patients and is receiving only 8% of the state’s funding, the clinic brings critical funding into the entire state’s program. If Bridgercare were to leave Title X, funding for at least three rural clinics would be affected. That might lead to the closure of those clinics. Three, at a minimum.
It is possible that the Gag Rule will be injuncted again. Regardless, Bridgercare will continue to provide medically-accurate, comprehensive counseling to patients and work to ensure that the Title X program in Montana stays strong.
We are grateful to have a community that is supportive of affordable, compassionate reproductive healthcare and comprehensive, evidence-based sexual health education. The support that Bridgercare receives is a gift to every Montana community, near or far. Because of you, Bridgercare has strengthened flagship programs and is adding much-needed services. As we move forward, we count on you to make sure that comprehensive, compassionate reproductive healthcare remains accessible and affordable, regardless of politics.