Title X gag rule hurts families in Pa. and beyond

Philadelphia, PA, May 13, 2019
Originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer

By Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, Rep. Madeleine Dean, and Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon 

As new members of Congress, we are taking a stand against dangerous and unpopular attacks on Title X — the national family planning program. All people deserve affordable, reliable, and accurate reproductive health care. Yet with unethical and illegal policies like the Title X gag rule, the Trump-Pence administration is committed to eroding access to care. Though three federal courts have issued nationwide injunctions preventing the rule from going into effect for now, we know the fight is far from over. In fact, the fight has now come to us, in Congress. We are proud to stand with our fellow Southeastern Pennsylvania representatives — Congressmen Brendan Boyle and Dwight Evans — in our unwavering support for the Title X national family planning program.

Congress is in charge of the Title X program, and we will not fund the administration’s dangerous changes to it. We support our colleagues in the House who have introduced a bill with a “Title X Protection” that not only defends patients and doctors by blocking the administration’s policy, but also increases funding for the program.

The Title X program ensures that everyone — regardless of how much money they make or whether they’re insured — has access to basic, preventive reproductive health care. This includes birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and annual exams. Title X providers are unable to use Title X to provide abortions.

This administration’s Title X rule would prohibit providers that receive Title X funds from making referrals for lifesaving family planning services. It would criminalize and “gag” doctors who try to provide their patients with full and accurate medical information. It would increase the massive health-care inequities that already exist in this country. It would block providers, like Planned Parenthood, from participating in the program, and leave thousands of people across the Commonwealth without access to reproductive health care.

This includes a patient like Sydney, a 23-year-old Pennsylvanian, who was able to get treatment at her local Planned Parenthood health center for a persistent UTI after her mother unexpectedly lost her job, along with their health insurance. And it includes someone like Jeanette, from Springfield, a mother of two and cancer survivor who was able to get care through the Title X program, including cancer screenings and annual checkups. She knows these basic preventive services can be critical to early detection, and ultimately be lifesaving.

Title X serves nearly 170,000 people in Pennsylvania annually, at 169 health centers. The Title X gag rule is especially harmful to communities that are already unable to access quality health care due to racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and other systemic barriers, including communities of color, people with low incomes, and rural communities. The majority of patients in the Title X program identify as people of color, Hispanic, or Latino. Attacks on our communities’ most vulnerable populations are unacceptable. We know how dangerous cutting safety-net providers, such as Planned Parenthood, out of Title X will be. With the implementation of this new rule, many Pennsylvanians would be forced to go without health care.

Last November, voters told us loudly and clearly that they want and need more access to health care, not less. Seventy-five percent of American adults support the Title X program. That includes 66 percent of Republicans, 75 percent of Independents, and 85 percent of Democrats. Furthermore, investing in public health is fiscally responsible. We know that every dollar invested in the Title X program saves more than seven dollars in Medicaid-related costs — a total savings of seven billion dollars annually for federal and state governments.

We are not alone in opposing the changes to the Title X program. One hundred and ten public health organizations have said this rule violates medical ethics and will harm patients. As newly elected officials, we know that our job is to serve our communities, not interfere with doctors providing full and accurate medical information to their patients.


All people deserve the freedom to live full, healthy lives. We will never stop fighting for Pennsylvanians’ health care, and that is why we urge our colleagues in Congress to stand strong and protect Title X.

Madeleine Dean, Chrissy Houlahan, and Mary Gay Scanlon represent Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives.