Planned Parenthood of Illinois is speaking out against proposed changes to the only federal program that provides funding for birth control. Those changes include a so-called "gag rule" that could affect thousands of Illinois residents.
Healthcare providers under the Title X Family Planning Program, enacted in 1970 under then-President Richard Nixon, are required to offer information about abortions. The "gag rule" would direct providers not to provide information about abortion in many cases.
Title X is the only healthcare program funded by the federal government that provides help with family planning and birth control, often making it a more affordable option than other providers. It does not and has not provided funds for abortion. Title X has decreased the need for abortions by preventing unintended pregnancies, according to The Guttmacher Institute.
In Illinois, there are six counties where Planned Parenthood is the only Title X provider: LaSalle, Macon, McLean, Peoria, Sangamon, and Tazewell. Illinois has nearly 100 Title X healthcare providers, and Planned Parenthood accounts for 18% of them, though it sees over 40% of those patients.
"[The proposed rules are] just another attack on Planned Parenthood, on women's health and on our basic rights to access healthcare," said Julie Lynn, the manager of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Illinois. "The attempt to repeal the [Affordable Care Act] and block patients from coming to Planned Parenthood that way didn't move forward, and so the administration is continuing to take steps to block patients from getting the care they need in the place that they trust. This is a gross attempt to try and control women's lives in another way."
Comments from the public about the proposed changes will be collected through the end of the month. They are being collected by the Department of Health and Human Services.
As a congressman from Indiana, Vice President Mike Pence led the charge in efforts that would cut off Title X funding to Planned Parenthood. He argues the funding could help free up other money that the healthcare provider could in turn use to provide abortion. Earlier this year, Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the U.S. Senate for a measure that would prevent federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
In March, the Trump administration reportedly pushed for reproductive methods like abstinence advocacy over information about other forms of birth control during closed-door United Nations meetings. Trump administration officials went further right than previous Republican administrations and included advocacy for so-called "refusal skills," a notion that women be trained in how to refuse sexual advances in order to avoid pregnancy.
Keeping in line with the notion that the U.S. is a "pro-life nation", the administration has been trying to remake the Title X program by shifting focus away from medical birth control and toward abstinence programs and "fertility awareness" programs - such as the "rhythm" or "calendar method."