The 60-day window is almost up for Americans to formally voice their opinions about a plan to divert federal money through Title X away from health clinics that offer abortion services. The new Health and Human Services (HHS) guidelines would also withhold money from organizations that talk to patients about abortion as an option, a policy commonly referred to as a "domestic gag rule." You can still leave a public comment on Trump's abortion gag rule — but only for one more day.
"The White House has no business deciding what a doctor or nurse can say to their patient about legal medical procedures," Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) says in a statement to Bustle. "We need everyone speaking up on this."
With the July 31 deadline for public comments approaching, Harris and Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) Administrator Neomi Rao on Friday requesting extra time for the public to weigh in. They wrote that they were "troubled by the lack of advance notice of the proposed rule" and argued that more time is needed to evaluate the potential impacts of the proposed rule on public health and the economy, as well as what it would mean for other federal, state, and local policies.
In 2016, Title X clinics served more than 4 million people, 64 percent of whom had incomes at or below the federal poverty level, according to the HHS' annual report. In addition, the HHS report found that 21 percent of Title X patients identified as Black or African American and 32 percent identified as Hispanic or Latino.
The federal funds help cover birth control, wellness exams, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. The administration's proposed changes would prevent any clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to abortion clinics from receiving Title X money, though federal law already prohibits federal funds from going toward abortion services.
"It is unacceptable that the Trump Administration is now trying to jam through a proposal that would place a domestic gag rule on the Title X program and undermine women’s access to critical health services from places like Planned Parenthood," Hassan says in a statement to Bustle. "As members of the subcommittee with jurisdiction over the rule-making process, we are calling on the Trump Administration to extend the comment period so that people who would be affected by this backward and rushed rule have sufficient time to provide feedback about what this proposal would mean for them.”
HHS did not return Bustle's request for comment and has not announced a plan to extend the public comment period. That means Tuesday is the last day to officially tell the government what you think of the proposed change.
Public comments can be made on the Federal Register's website and are used to gauge the public's views toward a proposed rule, as well as what impact the rule might have on people's lives. Simply write out your message to the Trump administration, along with your name, zip code, and email address. But remember, all messages must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. ET on Tuesday.
Planned Parenthood also has a prewritten letter opposing the Title X changes that you can quickly send to the HHS rather than writing out your own. There's room to personalize the message, or you can simply send it as is. The letter ends:
"We know that the gag rule is intended to block people from accessing care and honest information. This would be radical, and has never been implemented in the United States before."
Planned Parenthood and other reproductive rights organizations have heavily criticized the proposal for preventing doctors from speaking openly to their patients and for restricting patients' access to medically sound information. Title X services can literally save lives, but the proposed changes would force many patients to either find a new clinic or start paying out of pocket.
You can let the Trump administration know how you feel about the changes by leaving a public comment before time is up.