Title X, a bill originally passed in 1970 under President Nixon, is the only federal grant program dedicated to providing family planning services as well as other preventive health care to primarily low-income patients. It is estimated that 70% of patients using Title X services are below the federal poverty level and more than 60% are uninsured or underinsured.1
In 2015 alone, Title X clinics served 3.8 million women, preventing 822,300 unintended pregnancies and 277,800 abortions.2 These clinics provide comprehensive family planning services including information, counseling, and referrals for abortion services. Title X clinics do not use the funding to provide abortion care, and no federal funding from Title X has ever been used to pay for abortions.
Proposed rule changes
The Trump Administration has proposed several new rules for Title X grant recipients.
Here are the main changes3:
- There must be a “financial and physical” separation between a clinic that is a Title X grant recipient and a facility where “abortion is a method of family planning.” This would prevent health centers that receive Title X funding from providing abortions at the same facility. This rule would predominantly affect health centers like Planned Parenthood. Although these clinics already have a financial separation from abortion care, there would not be a physical one in most situations and these clinics would lose Title X funding or be forced to stop providing abortion services.
- Providers who work at a clinic that receives Title X funding but provides abortions at a completely different facility may be ineligible for ongoing Title X grant money. In the new changes, “funds may not be used…to support the separate abortion business of Title X grant subrecipient.” The changes also propose to “protect Title X providers” from choosing between the health of their patients and their consciences. It plans to do this by removing the requirement to provide abortion counseling and referral and allows “non-directive” counseling.
- There would also be a requirement to encourage more parental involvement in minors’ decision making. While clinics already discuss parental involvement, the change would seek to increase the encouragement to young patients to involve parents. Most young patients do involve a parent or guardian in their care; however, many Title X clinics serve young patients who seek care confidentially. Patients seek confidential care due to a multitude of reasons, including history of abuse, lack of trust, and intimate partner violence.
- “A Title X project may not perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning.” Although the rule does not prevent providers from discussing abortions, clinicians could offer little guidance if a patient opts for an abortion. Providers can give a list of “qualified, comprehensive health service providers” but may not disclose which, if any, of the providers perform abortions.
Title X provides important health care services to low-income, uninsured, and underinsured patients. These proposals put access to comprehensive health care for vulnerable populations at risk. Medical organizations including the American Medical Association and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have made statements against the proposed changes to Title X. As ObGyns, we need to ensure our patients are fully informed and have access to all family planning and preventive health services.
Call or email your local representative and tell them you oppose the changes to Title X. Find your representatives.
ACOG’s Action Center on protecting Title X, which includes a flyer for your waiting room.
to the Health and Human Services Secretary. Submit a formal comment through July 31, 2018, on the Federal Registrar website expressing your thoughts with these proposed changes.