Asbury Park Press

'Gag Rule' Will Hurt Women More Than It Will Help

Asbury Park Press — May 30, 2018

By Maura Collinsgru
Guest columnist

The Trump administration has proposed a "gag rule" that would encourage health providers to withhold vital medical advice from millions of patients, many of them low-income. The "gag rule" would effectively ban Title X funds for any clinic or provider that offers or makes referrals for abortion services. It's another attempt to achieve administratively what Trump and many congressional Republicans have repeatedly failed to do through legislation.

Clinics that don't comply with these restrictions would lose all federal Title X funds, depriving their patients of a host of vital services, from birth control to preventative care, to screening for everything from cancer to sexually transmitted diseases.

I'm saddened by the fact that any woman could be in a situation where they want or need to end a pregnancy. But if as a society we hope to change that we must do more to protect women and children and ensure they have access to the services and support they need. This "gag rule" is part of a larger campaign to undermine and defund programs that help women, children and families.

What have those supporting this proposal done to improve conditions for women and children? Are we supposed to forget how the authors and supporters of this "gag rule" are cutting our social safety net programs that support millions of low-income women and children so the wealthy and corporations get a tax cut they don't need or deserve?

Or how many Republicans, including Congressman Tom MacArthur, R-N. J., voted overwhelmingly to take food out the mouths of millions of women and their families by cutting SNAP benefits just two days before the gag rule was released? Are we to forget about multiple efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which ended gender discrimination in insurance policies and guaranteed women coverage for basic services like prevention, pre-natal services, maternity care and other essential health benefits and caused millions to lose health coverage? This administration and its allies have tried to cut federal matching funds for Medicaid, and the president's budget calls for slashing Medicaid funding by more than $1 trillion over the next decade. They now want to cut $7 billion in funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program. To those who care to help women faced with the decision of whether or not to bear a child, let's stop promoting policies that make bringing one into this world more difficult. These programs are critical to women and children across this country.

Medicaid is the nation's largest payer of family planning services and the largest single funder of births. Medicaid provides health care for nearly 13 million women of reproductive age including 31 percent of African-American women and 27 percent of Hispanic women, many of whom would not be able to access health care if this rule were to go into effect. We should promote policies that make equitable education, health care, housing and income a reality for all our citizens.

Maura Collinsgru is health care program director for New Jersey Citizen Action.

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