FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – July 31, 2018
[NEW YORK, NY] – Today marks the deadline for public commentary on the changes to the Title X Family Planning Program proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). If adopted, this domestic “gag rule” would ban health centers that receive Title X funding from providing their patients with information, referrals, access or support regarding abortion services. This rule is yet another attack by the Trump Administration on low-income and minority communities.
The Global Justice Center has submitted a comment to Health and Human Services detailing the various ways the proposed rule violates fundamental human rights protections, including free speech and access to abortion services. Although similar Title X restrictions on speech were ruled constitutional in the 1991 case Rust v. Sullivan in the ensuring 27 years, international human rights obligations to protect free speech, by which the U.S. is bound, have become increasingly defined. The freedom of speech safeguards the right to seek and impart information and is one of the most fundamental human rights enshrined in international law. The proposed restrictions include language prohibiting the “promotion” of abortion in any way, limiting public debate and withholding information of public interest and require that doctors withhold necessary medical information from their patients.
Federal laws already prohibit federal funding from being used to provide safe abortion services. The proposed rule goes much further. It prohibits providers from giving clear information to patients who ask where they can obtain an abortion, adding additional and unnecessary obstacles to the exercise of a fundamental right. The proposed limitations on doctors’ speech violate medical ethics, forcing doctors to withhold information from their patients and placing their health, and their lives, at risk. As we know from the impact of the domestic gag rule’s international counterparts, including the Global Gag Rule, restricting access to safe abortion services does not reduce the rate of abortions—it simply makes them more dangerous.
“These proposed restrictions substitute the Trump Administration’s politics for the judgement of doctors and ability of women to make choices about their own bodies and lives,” says Global Justice Center President Akila Radhakrishnan. “The domestic gag rule is an unacceptable roll-back on fundamental human rights that violates the United States’ obligations to ensure that its citizens are afforded the basic legal protections that they are guaranteed under international law—including the rights of all citizens to receive accurate and comprehensive medical information."
The Title X Family Planning Program was established to ensure that all Americans could access contraception and other reproductive health services. It is a critical resource for women around the country, particularly women of color, low-income women and women living in rural communities. About 4 million people rely on Title X services every year, and the program annually funds about 720,000 Pap tests, almost 1 million breast exams and 1.2 million HIV tests. The changes would put the lives of millions of American women at risk, denying them access to comprehensive and affordable reproductive health care.
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