Thought Planned Parenthood was safe after the Obamacare replacement bill failed to pass last month? Think again. Today, President Trump signed a measure that could potentially strip Title X funds from the women who need them. Title X has existed since 1970 and it allocates money to family planning services for low income women — including those provided by Planned Parenthood. In 2015 alone, Title X funding helped health care centers across the country provide 800,000 Pap smear tests, 1 million breast exams, and 6 million STI tests. Notice anything missing from that list? That’s right: Abortions.
The measure overturned a previous bill, signed by President Obama, that made it illegal for states to block Title X funding to clinics for political reasons. It squeaked through the Senate on March 30, when Vice President Mike Pence rushed to cast a tie-breaking vote.
"Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and by signing this bill, President Trump disregards their health and well-being."
“People are sick and tired of politicians making it even harder for them to access health care, and this bill is just the latest example,” Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement about the measure. “Planned Parenthood strongly opposes President Trump’s willingness to undermine millions of women’s access to birth control through the Title X family planning program. Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and by signing this bill, President Trump disregards their health and well-being.”
With President Trump’s signature, states will now be able to decide whether or not they’re going to allocate Title X funding to clinics that offer abortion in addition to the other health care services they provide. In rural states and other places with limited access to women’s health centers, taking away Title X funding could result in clinics closing — and there might not be other options. It’s a step back, just when reproductive rights were starting to move forward.
"Too many women still face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes."
“We should build on the tremendous progress made in this country with expanded access to birth control, instead of enacting policies that take us backward,” Laguens said. “Too many women still face barriers to health care, especially young women, women of color, those who live in rural areas, and women with low incomes.”
This move is the latest in a growing list of moves that are slowing chipping away at access to reproductive health care services. One of President Trump’s first acts after the inauguration was to reinstate and expand the global gag rule, which means that health organizations fighting HIV and Zika across the world are not allowed to use American global health funding if they provide information or services for safe, legal abortions. That was followed by the failed repeal of the Affordable Care Act (which included specific provisions that stripped back access to reproductive health services) and the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court.
“Women marched in historic numbers the day after the inauguration because they feared the worst. Their worst fears are now coming true,” Laguens said. “We are facing the worst political attack on women’s health in a generation as lawmakers have spent the past three months trading away women’s health and rights at every turn.”
So what can women who are concerned about their reproductive rights do? Laguens says: Fight back.
“That’s why women are the core of the resistance and have have been organizing and speaking out since the day after the election,” Laguens said. “They know speaking up and speaking out can change the direction of this government.”
Interested in taking action? Check out these seven ways you can help Planned Parenthood and other health care clinics that will be affected by the stripping of Title X funds. And remember: While moves like this are demoralizing, they haven’t won — yet.