The Trump administration proposed a domestic “Gag Rule” last night, banning health centers that provide, refer, support, or assist women in accessing abortion services from receiving Title X funding. This dangerous policy will deny women their fundamental human rights.
Like the Global Gag Rule reinstated by President Trump in 2017, the Domestic Gag Rule will coerce doctors into staying silent about the option to terminate a pregnancy (except in extremely limited circumstances) under threat of losing their government funding. In effect, the Domestic Gag Rule will prevent doctors from providing complete and accurate medical guidance to women. Even if a patient asks directly where she can obtain an abortion, a Title X provider will not be able to provide her with direct information in order to allow her to access her constitutionally protected right.
“Restricting the conversations that doctors can have with their patients fundamentally violates the principle of free speech,” says Global Justice Center President (acting) Akila Radhakrishnan. “International standards are clear that governments cannot restrict free speech except under very limited circumstances—this is not one of them.”
The Global Justice Center is conducting a legal analysis of the 129-page policy and will outline the ways the new policy violates U.S. obligations under international law in a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.
These funding restrictions are widely viewed as President Trump’s attempt at fulfilling his campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood—an organization that currently serves over 40% of Title X patients. According to a recent Guttmacher study, if Planned Parenthood is excluded from Title X funding, other Title X providers would need to increase their caseloads by 70%. This overwhelming influx of new patients will challenge the capacity of remaining clinics to meet the demand for other essential services that Title X is intended to fund, including STI screenings, cancer screenings, and contraception.
“This policy is the Trump administration’s attempt to see how far they can erode access to abortion services in the United States, and the input they are asking for in this process indicates that more restrictive abortion regulations are on the horizon,” says Radhakrishnan. “As anti-choice politicians attack women’s constitutionally protected rights, international standards are increasingly important.”