Merkley, Wyden, Democrats Call for Reversal Of Trump-Pence Administration’s Gag Rule

Merkley, Wyden, Democrats Call for Reversal Of Trump-Pence Administration’s Gag Rule

Extreme Trump-Pence gag rule tells doctors which government-approved medical procedures they may inform patients about

Portland, Ore. – Oregon’s Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined 40 of their fellow Democratic senators in sending a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar slamming the Trump-Pence Administration’s new “gag rule” that compromises the Title X family planning program. This rule dictates to physicians and other health care providers which government-approved medical options they may inform patients about, jeopardizing the health care of millions of people who rely on Title X-funded providers for cancer screenings, STI screenings, birth control, family planning services, and more.

The letter came as the Administration’s minimal and conflicting guidance about its harmful rule has caused confusion and concern among providers. The Senators called on the Trump Administration to reverse course on the rule and maintain the essential care Title X-funded clinics provides for over four million patients nationwide.

“Over the past few weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided minimal and conflicting guidance to health care providers about how and when the Department intends to enforce the Trump Administration’s Title X rule. This rule will undermine the essential confidential nature of the patient-provider relationship at the nearly 4,000 health centers receiving Title X funding. It will also needlessly compromise health care for the millions of people who rely on the critical services provided by those centers, including comprehensive family planning and screening for diseases such as HIV and cancer. In light of this dangerous impact and the many concerns raised by health care providers, patients, and other stakeholders throughout the development of this rule, we believe the rule should be rescinded,” wrote the Senators.

“Four million patients who rely on Title X-funded programs now face limited options, as clinics and providers recognize the new regulation will force them to choose between receiving federal funds and upholding the confidential relationship between patient and health care provider,” the Senators warned.

The Trump Administration’s gag rule undermines the historically bipartisan Title X family planning program and will impact nearly 100 Title X-funded clinics operating in Oregon. The rule interferes with the essential confidential nature of the patient-provider relationship by preventing medical providers from helping patients get the care that is right for them, and gives federal funding to providers who refuse to fully inform patients—particularly vulnerable and low-income women who would otherwise lack access to care—of their medical options.

The letter was led by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and also signed by Senators Tom Udall (D-NM), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Ed Markey (D-MA), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chris Coons (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Jon Tester (D-MT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jacky Rosen (D-NV ), Jack Reed (D-RI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Gary Peters (D-MI), Bob Casey (D-PA), Tom Carper (D-DE), Mark Warner (VA), and Brian Schatz (D-HI).

Read the full letter below or access the PDF version HERE:

July 26, 2019

The Honorable Alex M. Azar II                    

Secretary        

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services      

200 Independence Avenue, SW

Washington, DC 20201

 

Dear Secretary Azar, 

Over the past few weeks, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has provided minimal and conflicting guidance to health care providers about how and when the Department intends to enforce the Trump Administration’s Title X rule. This rule will undermine the essential confidential nature of the patient-provider relationship at the nearly 4,000 health centers receiving Title X funding. It will also needlessly compromise health care for the millions of people who rely on the critical services provided by those centers, including comprehensive family planning and screening for diseases such as HIV and cancer.

In light of this dangerous impact and the many concerns raised by health care providers, patients, and other stakeholders throughout the development of this rule, we believe the rule should be rescinded. 

For decades, Title X-funded clinics have provided high quality health care to patients. The historically bipartisan program is intended to offer a full range of confidential and unbiased family planning services. Title X-funded clinics not only provide access to contraception, allowing women to choose whether and when to start a family, but also offer cancer and HIV screenings, STI screenings and treatment, and related preventive services. Four million patients who rely on Title X-funded programs now face limited options, as clinics and providers recognize the new regulation will force them to choose between receiving federal funds and upholding the confidential relationship between patient and health care provider. That is why health care providers, including the American Medical Association, Planned Parenthood, and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, and nearly half of all States have filed lawsuits against HHS to challenge this rule.

In fact, health care providers have indicated the ideology-based restrictions put them in the untenable position of deciding between offering substandard care and withdrawing from the program, potentially compromising health care access for the poor and low-income patients who rely on them. Six in ten of the women who obtain publicly funded contraceptive care at a safety-net health center, receive that care through a Title X-funded center.  HHS should be seeking to increase access to contraceptive care, not advancing policies that sow confusion and make it harder for women to access the health care they need.

We urge you to reconsider this harmful rule and instead work with health care providers to maintain policies that will help ensure that women have access to the family planning services, cancer screenings, and STI screenings and treatment that they rely on Title X-funded clinics to provide. Please contact Laurel Sakai with Senator Murray’s HELP Committee staff with any questions at (202) 224-7675.  

Sincerely,