In 1988, the Reagan Administration barred Title X health clinics from providing medical counseling on abortion care options. The executive order – more commonly known as the domestic gag rule – was rescinded by President Clinton in 1993, but was then later partially upheld to create a financial (but not physical) separation of Title X and non-Title X funds.
The Trump Administration announced on May 18, 2018 that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was proposing a new rule that would prohibit Title X funding from being used for abortion services. The White House’s statement emphasizes that the rule “does not include the so-called ‘gag rule’ on counseling about abortion that was part of the Reagan Administration’s Title X rule.” The technicality is that under this new rule, healthcare providers can provide non-directive counseling to patients so long as they don’t “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” But what is the line between counseling and referring, and how will it be enforced?
For example, if a patient goes to a clinic that receives Title X funding and they find out that they are pregnant, the medical provider cannot actively suggest abortion care. If, however, the patient has decided completely on their own to get an abortion, the doctor must provide them with a list of clinics that both provide and don’t provide abortions (a.k.a. fake clinics or “Crisis Pregnancy Centers”) with no distinction between the two. Functionally, the federal government has introduced this new gag rule to deter people from seeking safe abortion care and, instead, drive them into the hands of dangerous and often malicious fake clinics.
Yesterday, on a rainy Tuesday morning, activists congregated at the Capitol to protest and object to the ensuing Trump-led assault on healthcare. Representative Jan Schakowsky spoke to the crowd about the importance of opposing the gag rule for future generations. Representative DeLauro proudly stated (without beating around the bush): “They [conservative presidential administrations] keep doing this to us simply because they don’t respect women enough to see us as people.” Following her, Representative Foster and Senator Chu spoke out against the anti-science and misogynistic rhetoric centering the current presidential administration.
After the Congresspeople spoke, we practiced a few call-and-response chants:
Show me what democracy looks like –
THIS IS WHAT DEMOCRACY LOOKS LIKE
Every person, every state –
HEALTHCARE RIGHTS JUST CAN’T WAIT
Sporting t-shirts and carrying posters with statements like “Healthcare is a human right,” “99% of Catholic women use birth control,” and “Stand with Planned Parenthood,” we marched to the Department of Health and Human Services from the Capitol. As we chanted, yelled, and marched down the hill, we drew in supporters from off of the street; it became clear that our bodies existing in that space in solidarity with one another were making as much a political statement as our voices and our messages.
We cried out in our chants, demanding that politicians not have control over our bodies and access to healthcare. We demanded the right to autonomy, the right to choose what is best for our bodies, and the right to facts. As we marched and yelled and chanted we fought back against those who want to silence our voices – those who want to strip away our rights and turn back time. And despite the continuous war that this government is waging on our lives, we resolved to keep on fighting until our rights are safeguarded and our voices are heard.
Now is the time for action and persistence in our resistance. You can join the efforts to fight for reproductive healthcare by submitting a public comment to Department of Health and Human Services; submit your comment online here and head here if you want more information on crafting your comment.
And if you’re feeling particularly feisty, contact the Secretary of Health And Human Services himself, Alex Azar, and let him know that you refuse to accept the Trump Administration attacks on basic healthcare.
Use your voice – online and off – to advocate for reproductive freedom. Contact your senators and urge them to declare their denunciation of the gag rule. Speak out against the gag rule through social media outlets using #NoGagRule. And most importantly, directly support the communities you care about by donating to your local clinics. These are the healthcare providers that are being attacked and would benefit greatly from your advocacy and assistance.
When healthcare rights are under attack, what do we do?