The Devastating Impact of the Domestic Gag Rule


The Devastating Impact of the Domestic Gag Rule

by Ginny Ehrlich
September 18, 2019
a doctor with tape over her mouth preventing her from speaking

The Trump Administration’s recent enforcement of the Title X “domestic gag rule” is nothing short of catastrophic for people living on limited incomes. For nearly fifty years, people with limited means have relied on health clinics supported by Title X funds for affordable birth control, gynecological exams, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Before the domestic gag rule took effect, roughly 4 million people of low income could access no and low-cost contraception as well as related services because of Title X funding. The domestic gag rule prohibits clinics that receive funds to support the aforementioned services from providing information about and referrals for abortion services on the premises, even with other funds. Notably, Title X funds have never been used to support abortion services.

Citing their belief that they cannot provide ethical and quality care under the new rules, clinics in 325 counties spanning 33 states have already opted out of the Title X Program, meaning that millions of people will not have affordable access to quality family planning services they need and deserve. Today, September 18, 2019, is the deadline by which providers demonstrate compliance with these changes. We anticipate this mass exodus from the program to continue after today and we know that the consequent damage to the safety net will be long term. As a result of this rule, the number of people who live in counties without a single clinic offering the full range of birth control methods could triple.

The real impact is on the millions of people, and in particular low-income women, who have long relied on these services for their health care. It means that people who have long relied on the program may have higher out of pocket costs for health care and contraception because clinics will no longer have funds to support them. People already counting every penny may need to travel longer distances to clinics offering services, take more time off work, or pay for additional childcare costs.

Already, there are stories of the gag rule resulting in higher fees, which force people who don’t have the means to pay to opt out of care. When people cannot afford a service, they will often forgo things such as diagnostic testing and contraceptive care it in favor of paying for something they deem more of a necessity. Without access to these critical preventive services, people are left vulnerable to experiencing an unplanned pregnancy or not getting early diagnoses or treatment for life and death conditions.

Though some health centers are in the position to continue to serve people at no or low cost in the short run, many are not. The loss of these vital funds has already forced many of these health centers to charge people significantly more for services or cut back on the services they offer. And that means that millions of people are not getting the critical are they need and deserve.

These are troubling times for women’s reproductive health. However, with your support we can help women continue to access the health care they need and deserve. BCBenefits is our contraceptive access fund. It helps women of low income overcome some of the most commonly-faced barriers in access to contraception such as transportation and the cost of the contraceptive care itself. Please take a moment to visit us and learn how you can help us support women’s power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to get pregnant and have a child.