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Tuesday, July 31, 2018

AG HEALEY OPPOSES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S ATTACK ON FEDERAL FAMILY PLANNING PROGRAM

AG HEALEY OPPOSES TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S ATTACK ON FEDERAL FAMILY PLANNING PROGRAMProposal Includes “Gag Rule” That Prevents Some Providers from Discussing Safe and Legal Abortions with Their Patients

            BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today called on the Trump Administration to withdraw its dangerous and illegal proposed rule that would effectively dismantle Title X, the national family planning program that provides more than $6.1 million in funding for health care services for Massachusetts women and families annually. The Administration’s proposal includes a “gag rule” that effectively bans Title X providers from discussing safe and legal abortions with their patients. 
           
            In comments submitted today to the Department of Health and Human Services, AG Healey and the attorneys general of Washington, Oregon and Vermont argue that the proposed rule would prevent millions of low-income women and families across the country from accessing critical family planning and health care services. If finalized, the proposed rule will impede Title X recipients from offering complete care to their patients by illegally preventing doctors, nurses, and other health care providers from referring their patients to a legal abortion provider, except in cases where a woman has already decided to have an abortion prior to receiving counseling.

            “Every woman in Massachusetts and across the country deserves the ability to make informed decisions about her reproductive health care with her health care provider,” said AG Healey. “This dangerous proposal puts the health of more than four million women in the country at risk by robbing them of their access to critical services. We will defend women’s access to reproductive health care.”

In 2016 alone, 90 Title X Massachusetts service sites provided more than 66,000 residents with a range of health care services including contraceptive and infertility services, pregnancy testing and options counseling, screenings for cervical and breast cancer, screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, and health education. According to the letter, these services not only make a profound difference in patients’ lives, they also save the state and the federal government an estimated $140 million per year, just for Massachusetts alone.  

According to the letter, Title X-funded centers helped avert 13,000 unintended pregnancies in Massachusetts. Access to family planning services, the letter contends, can enhance many aspects of a woman’s life including making it more likely that she will achieve her educational and career goals and that she will ultimately earn more money. These services can also lead to healthier relationships, better health outcomes, and better parenting.

The attorneys general argue that by severely curtailing the ability of health care providers to discuss abortion with patients, the government is interfering with the doctor-patient relationship and infringing on a woman’s ability to receive unbiased and complete medical information. This restriction, according to the letter, would jeopardize the health of low-income women and the ethical obligations of health care providers. The comments also criticize the proposed and onerous new requirement for clinics funded under program that perform abortions to have separate physical spaces for Title X funded services and abortion services, effectively requiring two separate clinics.

“I applaud Attorney General Healey for defending women’s basic rights and the most basic medical ethics, and for once again standing up to the Trump-Pence administration’s dangerous political interference in people’s health. The Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule is designed to dismantle an effective, bipartisan public health program in order to push an extreme ideological agenda,” Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshakpresident and CEO of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said. “The result of this gag rule is that people will not get the health care they need. They won’t get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, or even general health exams. We cannot allow political interference to undermine our ability to provide the best care and information to our patients. Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts joins Attorney General Healey in calling on U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to withdraw this dangerous rule.”

“The aim of the domestic gag rule is clear — eliminate the majority of Title X providers in Massachusetts through harmful, unnecessary regulations and restrictions," NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Executive Director Rebecca Hart Holder said. “The proposed rule poses a serious threat to Bay Staters by creating barriers to accessing critical preventative reproductive healthcare services they need and deserve. Title X program has been a critical safety next for Massachusetts for decades. Cuts to Title X will harm over 66,000 Massachusetts residents, many of whom are low-income and unable to access these essential healthcare services elsewhere. Attorney General Maura Healey is a true champion for reproductive freedom and we applaud her vocal opposition to this proposed new rule."

Today’s comments are part of AG Healey’s ongoing commitment to fight for women’s access to reproductive health care. Last year, AG Healey successfullyadvocated for the passage of legislation that requires all state-regulated plans to provide coverage without cost-sharing for all unique forms of FDA-approved contraceptives, allows doctors to prescribe a 12-month supply of contraceptives, and helps eliminate barriers to timely access to emergency contraceptives. In October 2017, AG Healey sued the Trump Administration for rolling back a requirement under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for employers to include birth control coverage in their health insurance plans.

This matter was handled by Legal Analyst Elizabeth Carnes Flynn of AG Healey’s Health Care Division, with assistance from Assistant Attorneys General Jonathan Miller, Chief of AG Healey’s Public Protection and Advocacy Bureau, Genevieve Nadeau, Chief of AG Healey’s Civil Rights Division, and Gabrielle Viator, Deputy Chief of AG Healey’s Policy and Government Division.

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