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Pro-choice activists, politicians and others associated with Planned Parenthood gather for a news conference and demonstration in New York City against the Trump administrations title X rule change.
Pro-choice activists, politicians and others associated with Planned Parenthood gather for a news conference and demonstration in New York City against the Trump administrations title X rule change. (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

During the past two years, the Trump-Pence administration has launched a full-out assault on women's reproductive health care. The long anticipated "Gag Rule,” published in the Federal Register on March 4, 2019, effectively dismantles Title X — the only federal program dedicated to providing low-income patients, including adolescents, access to family planning and preventive health services and information.

In order to protect and preserve the integrity of women’s health care, the Maryland General Assembly could make Maryland the first state in the country to reject millions in Title X federal family planning dollars and end Maryland’s participation in the Title X program.

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At Planned Parenthood of Maryland our mission is to ensure that every person — regardless of where they live, how much money they make, their background or whether they have health insurance — has the right to basic, preventive reproductive health care. Too many Maryland women already go without basic health care like birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, health screenings, STI testing and treatment and well-woman exams.

Maryland and several other Democratic-led states announced that they are challenging the Trump administration's effort to set up obstacles for women seeking abortions, including barring taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers.

The new Trump-Pence rule will have a devastating impact on uninsured, young and otherwise marginalized individuals who rely on the family planning services funded through Title X. It will not only limit health care options for women, it will perpetuate health disparities and racial inequities and worsen the massive divide that already exists in health care.

“This regulation disregards the expertise of the medical and scientific community and evidence-based standards and will do indelible harm to the health of Americans and to the relationship between patients and their providers,” according to a statement opposing the rule from 17 leading women’s health care provider groups, medical organizations and physicians representing more than 4.3 million health care providers.

In a preemptive move in 2017, the Maryland General Assembly passed legislation that would restore any federal funding cuts as a result of changes to Title X with state dollars. The effort anticipated this month’s proposed rule intended to disrupt local family planning services and defund Planned Parenthood. The 2017 law ensures that if the rule goes into effect, a state-funded family planning program will be created so that patients can continue to see their health care providers even if the provider is excluded from Title X.

"Are you feeling like you’ve made a mistake?” she said when my pregnancy test flashed positive. I was in a fake women’s health center in Southern Maryland, being “counseled” by a woman with no medical qualifications. “Yeah,” I mumbled, knowing I wasn’t pregnant. I was an undercover volunteer.

We are particularly troubled that the rule as published removes the requirement that family planning methods be "medically approved," leaving patients without a guarantee that health care providers will deliver medically accurate information and care or that they will be able to obtain the highest-quality family planning method available. Through a combination of statute and regulation, everyone covered by private insurance and Medicaid is guaranteed access to medically approved services. All Marylanders should have available a broad range of medically approved family planning methods so that they can select, with guidance from their health care provider, the method that works best for them.

Legislation (House Bill 1272/Senate Bill 904) sponsored by Delegates Shane Pendergrass and Maggie McIntosh, and Senators Delores Kelley and Sarah Elfreth provides a vehicle for Maryland to reject federal funds and stop participating in the federal Title X program entirely unless individuals who qualify for services under Title X have equal access to the same family planning services as do people with private insurance or Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood has had a long standing commitment to providing the same quality, accessible and affordable reproductive health services to all women — regardless of their race, gender, sexual identity, or their socio economic status. We are fortunate that our legislators care enough to safeguard a woman’s right to fully access family planning services.

We are grateful to our elected officials for their ongoing commitment to protect funding for Planned Parenthood and urge them to support this legislation, and if the proposed rule goes into effect, to withdraw from Title X and reject Title X funds.

Karen J. Nelson (CEO@ppm.care)is president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Maryland.

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