Attorney General Josh Shapiro Files Suit Against Trump Administration’s Title X Gag Rule

March 5, 2019 | Topic: Rights

New HHS Regulation Jeopardizes Pennsylvanians’ Healthcare by Undermining the Nation’s Only Program Dedicated to Family Planning

HARRISBURG, PA —Attorney General Josh Shapiro today announced that Pennsylvania, in a coalition of 21 State Attorneys General, has filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of the Trump Administration’s new “gag rule” that imposes several new restrictions on participants in the Title X family planning program. The national lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon.

Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to funding family planning programs to help patients access contraception, cancer screenings, exams, and other related health services. The regulation is known as the “gag rule” because it places unlawful and unethical restrictions on health care professionals, prohibiting them in most instances from providing information or referrals for abortion services.

“Pennsylvania is joining this suit to stop an unacceptable attempt by the Trump Administration to get between women and their doctors,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro. “Women deserve and depend on Title X clinics for essential healthcare services like contraception, preventive care, and cancer screenings, and they are entitled to accurate information about their reproductive choices. I denounced this move by HHS when it was announced two weeks ago, and today we are taking action to prevent the federal government from jeopardizing the healthcare of Pennsylvania women.”

Pennsylvania has the third highest number of Title X patients in the nation. In 2017, Pennsylvania received more than $13 million in Title X funding to support health care services for more than 200,000 patients across the Commonwealth. Title X providers offer a range of essential preventive health services, including well-woman examinations, breast and cervical cancer detection, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s), HIV/AIDS testing, HPV and Hepatitis B vaccines, pregnancy testing and counseling, and contraception for thousands of low-income, uninsured, and underinsured individuals each year.

Title X clinics serve all of the Commonwealth’s 67 counties, and many are located in areas with a shortage of primary health care providers and facilities coupled with high levels of need. More than half of the patients who received services at Pennsylvania Title X clinics had incomes at or below the poverty level, and approximately 85% have incomes at or below 250% of the poverty level.

Planned Parenthood is the largest Title X service provider in the Commonwealth, and is the only Title X provider in many parts of the state. In 2016, it operated 13 percent of Title-X funded centers (28 in total), but it cared for 36 percent of all Title X patients.  For instance, in Bucks County—the fourth-largest county in the Commonwealth—all of the Title X clinics are operated by Planned Parenthood.

“Title X is truly a lifeline for the patients who rely on it,” Attorney General Shapiro’s complaint reads. “Without services through Title X-funded providers, many of these patients would have nowhere else to turn.”

In August of 2018, Attorney General Shapiro and Governor Tom Wolf filed formal, legal comments opposing HHS’ proposed rule.

The lawsuit is being led by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and New York Attorney General Letitia James. Also joining the lawsuit is Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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