Trump rescinds Obama-era protections for Planned Parenthood
Yesterday, Trump signed House Joint Resolution 43 into law – a measure that undoes an Obama-era rule, which explained that states are not permitted to withhold federal family planning funding from clinics that provide abortion care. The Department of Health and Human Services under the Obama administration put the regulation in place to prevent state legislatures from using its federal funding in a discriminatory manner, specifically by refusing to fund comprehensive sexual and reproductive healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood.
The rescinding of this regulation does not make it legal for states to defund Planned
Parenthood clinics. Rather, it removes a clarification that Title X, the country’s only family planning program, should not be used to discriminate against providers who offer abortion care. Title X has not changed – nevertheless, this move may empower state legislatures to join the 14 states that have already taken measures to withhold funding from qualified Title X health care providers.
To undo the Obama era regulations, Republican Members of Congress used the obscure Congressional Review Act – a piece of legislation that had been used sparingly before this year. The CRA permits the rollback of regulations passed within the final 60 days of the previous administration with just a majority vote.
The measure didn’t pass easily in the Senate. In an unprecedented move on a resolution vote, Vice President Pence was called in to cast a tie-breaking vote after two Republican senators, Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, sided with Democrats to maintain the Obama-era regulation.
Ironically, Republicans claim this roll-back will give states ‘choice’ – of whether or not to fund the critical non-abortion services provided by Title X clinics, since federal funds are already prohibited for abortion care under the Hyde Amendment. Meanwhile, states that decline funding to clinics like Planned Parenthood would strip a number of choices related to health and bodily autonomy away from low-income folks, communities of color, and LGBTQ folks in their state who rely on access to affordable sexual and reproductive healthcare.
More than 4 million people rely on Title X-funded healthcare services, and Planned Parenthood delivers the majority of those services – including breast exams and cervical cancer exams, hormone therapy, contraception, testing for STIs including HIV, in-vitro fertilization and wellness checks.
These are services that LGBTQ people need. Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of transgender healthcare in the country. Lesbian and bisexual women, intersex and gender non-conforming people, and transgender men all need reproductive healthcare like contraception, abortion and cervical cancer screenings. And absolutely everyone needs access to sexual healthcare like HIV and other STI testing.
The fact that Planned Parenthood provides free or low-cost care through Medicaid and Title X funding is critical for the community. Because of experiences of discrimination, social isolation, and disparate health outcomes that create barriers to employment and social advancement, LGBTQ people are disproportionately low income. Poverty rates on average are higher among lesbian and bisexual women and African Americans within the community, with more than 28% of lesbian and bisexual women living in poverty. 75% of Planned Parenthood patients live below the federal poverty level, and 40% are people of color. Half of Planned Parenthood clinics are located in rural or underserved communities, where there may not be another provider available.
Politicians in Washington, D.C. have spent the past three months trading away the reproductive health, rights and justice of people in the U.S. and abroad at every turn – from an expanded and even more harmful global gag rule, to undermining maternity care in ACA repeal, to the failed attempt to “defund” Planned Parenthood, to the nomination of extremist Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, to eliminating funding for the UNFPA, an organization dedicated to maternal and child health. This is one more attempt to add to that list, and we will not stand for it. Access to sexual and reproductive healthcare is a right that all people are entitled to, no matter their income.
Reproductive health, rights and justice (or, repro*) matter for LGBTQ people. We all have the right to be ourselves, love who we love, choose if, when and how we will have children, and to do so with dignity, free from violence or coercion. As the attempts to undermine our bodily autonomy and equal dignity persist, it is critical now more than ever to fuse repro* and LGBTQ advocacy. The National LGBTQ Task Force has developed the Queering Reproductive Justice toolkit to help advocates understand the intersection and allow them to better reflect and serve the repro* needs of LGBTQ people. The Toolkit aims to support the integration of repro* and LGBTQ advocacy and inspire cross-movement action.
Access the Queering Reproductive Justice toolkit here.
By Sabrina Rewald, If/When/How Reproductive Justice Fellow