The Gag Rule and the Abortion Bans Explained, and What You Can Do to Fight Back

The following post comes to us via Ava Budavari-Glenn, a political communications major and a nonprofit communications minor who is entering her sophomore year at Emerson College. She is a writer whose work focuses mainly on advocacy, and a community organizer who has worked for nonprofit organizations and political campaigns. She is a media and communications intern at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona.

Reproductive health has been under attack in the United States for decades, and this administration is no exception. Especially within the past few months, both national and state governments have taken definitive steps to take away bodily autonomy from those who can get pregnant. Title X funding and legal abortion are both essential aspects of reproductive health care in this country, but several states have made attempts to effectively ban abortion, and the Trump administration has attempted to place restrictions on Title X funding. Although Title X is only used to fund birth control, not abortion care, the two issues are connected, as hostility toward abortion and hostility toward birth control both come from the same place.

Access to reliable birth control prevents abortion. So why is it being restricted?

Title X is a program that was passed by Congress in 1970 that provides federal funding for birth control and other reproductive services to low-income families who otherwise could not afford them. These lifesaving services include birth control, cancer screenings, wellness exams, and STD testing and treatment. Approximately 33 percent of recipients are Hispanic/Latinx, and 21 percent are black/African American. Thanks to Title X funding, in 2016, health centers provided more than 4 million STD tests, 1 million breast exams, and 720,000 Pap tests.

The gag rule that the Trump administration has issued would prevent doctors from telling women how to access abortion, prevent Planned Parenthood from providing Title X-subsidized birth control to eligible patients, and prevent health-care professionals from giving women complete and accurate information about their sexual and reproductive health. It would impose strict and unnecessary requirements on the separation of Title X-related services and abortion services. It prevents doctors from giving abortion referrals, which discourages comprehensive reproductive health centers such as Planned Parenthood from offering counseling and referrals, while encouraging the same from inadequate resources such as crisis pregnancy centers, which shame women and do not provide accurate medical information. Low-income people using Title X shouldn’t have their health care compromised by politicians playing doctor. They should receive the same high-quality care as anyone else.

The gag rule also favors primary care providers and discourages reproductive health-focused providers such as Planned Parenthood, which help a wider reach of patients — putting more than 4 million people at risk, the majority of those people being people of color, LGBTQ patients, and rural patients. Additionally, minors‘ privacy and bodily autonomy would be violated, as doctors would have to coerce minors into involving their parents or guardians in their reproductive and sexual health, and subject them to invasive and often unnecessary screenings if they are pregnant or have an STD.

Nine states have instituted abortion bans over the past several weeks. These laws ban abortion before 24 weeks of pregnancy, when it is constitutionally protected by Roe v. Wade. Many of them ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, with no exceptions for rape or incest. Many people do not even know they are pregnant at this stage. Not only are these bans unconstitutional, they also remove bodily autonomy and choice from those who can get pregnant, and endanger the lives of millions of people by denying access to reproductive health care. If pregnancy endangers the life and health of the pregnant person, they could die from not having access to abortion. And if someone is so desperate to have an abortion that they resort to self-induced methods, that could kill them.

For years, politicians have been chipping away at Roe state by state, law by law, until it gets overturned completely. But criminalizing abortion will not stop it from happening. It will only stop safe abortions. These anti-choice lawmakers already know this, and are using a morality guise to exact control over bodies. And the abortion bans are only the beginning of a spiral that is sure to continue to attack the rest of our reproductive freedoms.

All of these restrictions are an affront to health care access and bodily autonomy. The anti-choice movement is a war on women and other people who can get pregnant. It has never really been about protecting life, or saving unborn children. It is about controlling women and their bodies — making it so they lack freedom, choice, and independence. It was a reaction to cultural milestones like the introduction of the birth control pill and the Roe v. Wade decision, both of which opened up doors for women to become independent and start careers.

Access to reliable birth control prevents abortion. So why is it being restricted? Because this battle is not about saving unborn children — again, it is about taking away bodily autonomy. With restrictions on both abortion and birth control, people who can get pregnant lose control of their own bodies. And if someone doesn’t have bodily autonomy, they have nothing else, and are completely easy to control.

These bans and restrictions will not take effect under our watch. That is why we need your help.

  • Sign our pledge to protect Title X
  • Volunteer with us
  • Text STAND to 2242 to keep up to date on the fight for reproductive rights in your community
  • Share this video
  • Download our digital swag kit to spread the word
  • Follow us on social media to stay up to date on actions you can take
  • Donate to Planned Parenthood
  • And finally: Last November, we opened the doors to the largest pro-reproductive health majority in the House — ever. Now let’s ask them to do what we elected them to do: protect our health care. Call TODAY and ask your representative to protect and fund access to birth control through Title X: 202-875-7046 #ProtectX