In yet another effort to placate far-right conservatives and Evangelical Christians, President Trump today announced a significant change in federal law that will ban funding for health clinics that tell pregnant women abortions are an alternative even if the procedure would not involve any federal funding.
In removing the current requirement that clinics counsel women that abortions are an option, the clinics also stand to lose the ability to offer mostly low-income women family planning services such as birth control and pregnancy tests.
The rule change is another assault on the group Planned Parenthood, which does not use any federal money to perform abortions but does use the funds to bolster women’s reproductive health options.
Planned Parenthood provides low cost and free services to many women and men who otherwise could not afford or healthcare services, particularly for expectant mothers who plan to carry to term.
The funding comes under a government program known as Title X. According to Tonic (a Vice subsidiary), in 2016 more than 64 percent of Title X patients had incomes at or below the poverty level, 32 percent identified as Latino, and 21 percent as African American.
“This is an attempt to take away women’s basic rights, period,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said.
“Under this rule, people will not get the health care they need. They won’t get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing, and treatment, or even general women’s health exams.”
With its typical irony, Trump’s change is called the “Protect Life Rule”, although for millions of women it will have the opposite impact on their health and well being.
Presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway met with Trump to push for this change and made clear it was an important political move. Conway, according to Axios, “highlighted that Planned Parenthood spends millions on Democrats in political races, including tens of millions on Trump’s 2016 opponent, Hillary Clinton.”
In other words, the devastating health consequences for women were not important, but serving the base that provides Trump’s campaign funding and votes drove this decision.
“A conservative leader involved in the policy fight told Axios it would be ‘ political suicide’ for Trump to abandon the policy,” Lugens explained. “They are underscoring that attacking women’s health is just political currency to the Trump-Pence administration.”
Luguens did promise to use her platform for fight back. “Planned Parenthood will continue to remind President Trump that attacking access to STI tests, birth control, and cancer screenings for women who earn low incomes is not a political statement—it’s cruel and despicable.”
Dr. Sanithia Williams, who is an OB-GYN and family planning fellow serving Title X patients at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hosptial said the rule change will “hurt patients who are already marginalized in our healthcare system most, namely women of color and low-income women.”
“It is not an exaggeration to say that this policy puts women’s lives at risk by limiting their access to comprehensive and medically accurate reproductive health information. Silencing providers who deliver these vital services in Title X-funded health clinics creates a system where only those with the most economic means have access to medically accurate health information.”
It could take months for the changes to go through the bureaucratic system which includes a period for public comment, but as long as Trump and Pence are around to shepherd it through, this cruel, politically driven change will find its impact.
Once again, the rich have choices because their wealth affords them access to private doctors while the poor and working class are denied options which could save their lives or simply improve their quality of life.
Trump and Pence say this will protect life but in reality, it will lead to a lot of pain, suffering, and death for those who have some means to fight back.