Isabelle Schindler: The Trump Administration's attack on reproductive rights

Thursday, September 12, 2019 - 2:42pm

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These days, it feels like barely a week goes by without President Donald Trump's administration enacting another barrier for women making personal family planning decisions. The most recent is somewhat dry and complicated but still undeniably dangerous for women’s health. 

In 1970, the Title X funding program was signed into law by President Richard Nixon. This program provides funds for clinics across America to help offer family planning and other reproductive health services to low-income communities. Forty percent of the people served by Title X funding receive their care through Planned Parenthood clinics. 

This, however, is about to change due to a new directive from the Trump administration. In February 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a new rule that bars any organization receiving Title X funding from referring patients to abortion providers. After months of court battles, this change has been allowed to go through. 

Planned Parenthood has likened this new policy to a gag rule and said that they cannot accept any more Title X funds if doing so will prevent them from referring their patients to abortion services. 

This withdrawal from Title X by Planned Parenthood is set to have a detrimental impact on low-income communities across Michigan and the United States at large. Planned Parenthood provides nearly 40 percent of patients under Title X funding, delivering much-needed care to nearly 1.6 million Americans annually. 

Planned Parenthood of Michigan has said the loss of Title X funding will have a major impact on the state. Currently, 70 percent  of Title X services in Michigan are handled by Planned Parenthood. The loss of Title X funds is estimated to impact 42,000 Michiganders who receive low-cost health services from Planned Parenthood. This loss of care will be felt especially in certain counties, such as right here in Washtenaw County, where the only health care facility offering Title X coverage is Planned Parenthood.

While abortion opponents have accused Planned Parenthood of playing politics with women’s health, the real fault lies in the hands of the Trump administration for implementing this dangerous law, knowing full well the negative impact it will have.

Despite Planned Parenthood's warnings about the potential loss of Title X funding following the gag rule, the Trump administration pushed ahead with this policy, leaving Planned Parenthood no choice but to back out. 

The importance of Planned Parenthood being allowed to refer patients to abortion services cannot be overstated, especially given the recent rise in misleading crisis pregnancy centers. Crisis pregnancy centers are organizations that push false narratives to try to coerce women into not having abortions. In 2015, The National Abortion Rights Action League witnessed this firsthand during an undercover investigation of crisis pregnancy centers in California. NARAL reported workers at the crisis pregnancy centers telling patients patently false information, including that abortion is linked to breast cancer and infertility, neither of which is true.  

These centers often advertise online and make it seem as if they are impartial organizations. For women dealing with the stress of an unwanted pregnancy, it can be hard to determine which organizations are legitimate abortion providers and which are not. 

This action is another example of the Trump administration putting partisan politics ahead of the health of Americans. Whether it be attempting to defund Planned Parenthood or this new directive, this administration has been relentless in chipping away reproductive health care. 

This laser-like focus on restricting reproductive health care is emblematic of the rapidly changing Republican party. Republican President Richard Nixon signed this legislation into law, but that has not stopped the Republicans of today from gutting the law. As the Republican party becomes more conservative, we see ordinary people who simply want control of their bodies caught in the crosshairs. This is especially true with Title X funding, which has helped so many people. 

The funds used from Title X provide services desperately needed by so many Americans, from birth control to cancer screenings. In fact, a 2010 study concluded that the Title X program was highly effective and prevented 2.2 million unintended pregnancies, 99,100 cases of chlamydia and 410 HIV infections. These numbers prove the importance of these services and the sheer backwardness of the Trump administration's new rule.

As students, we cannot sit by as millions of Americans lose their access to this critically important care. Though Planned Parenthood is committed to making up for this major loss of funding, this will be no small feat, especially in Michigan. 

Currently, Planned Parenthood is “deprioritized” for receiving state funding. If you feel strongly that this is not all right, then write to your state representatives, get involved with abortion groups here on campus and, most importantly, vote, not only in the presidential election but also in down-ballot races. 

Here in Michigan, many of our fellow citizens are at risk of losing their care. This cannot stand. We must continue to raise our voices against this new policy and advocate for the state of Michigan to allocate more funds to help make up the difference in Title X funds. This is the only way to ensure that all Michiganders have access to the health care they deserve. 

Isabelle Schindler can be reached at ischind@umich.edu.