September 17, 2019
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For sake of women’s health, Congress must oppose abortion gag rule

Rick Bowmer | AP
Rick Bowmer | AP
A sign is displayed on the door of Planned Parenthood of Utah Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019, in Salt Lake City. About 39,000 people received treatment from Planned Parenthood of Utah in 2018 under a federal family planning program called Title X. The organization this week announced it is pulling out of the program rather than abide by a new Trump administration rule prohibiting clinics from referring women for abortions.

I have had many relationships in my life with family, friends and romantic partners. One of the longest is my relationship with my health care provider: Planned Parenthood.

I first went to Planned Parenthood as a teenager. Planned Parenthood was a place where I could safely and privately access birth control and get the care I needed to be healthy and take care of my body. Planned Parenthood empowered me from a young age to protect my body and make safe choices about sex.

As a young woman in my 20s, I didn’t have health insurance. Planned Parenthood’s commitment to providing care no matter what was so important to me. I was able to continue to obtain affordable birth control, annual exams and testing for sexually transmitted infections. Planned Parenthood made it easy for me to receive this care.

Now I am in my 30s, and I have health insurance. Although I have more options, I still choose to go to Planned Parenthood for my sexual and reproductive health care. It is an environment I respect and a place where I feel safe and cared for.

My story is not unusual. For many women like me, there’s nothing political about Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is our trusted health care provider.

Which is why it’s so discouraging to see a few politicians doing everything they can to politicize health care and make it harder for people to get care at Planned Parenthood.

Two years ago, they tried to ” defund” Planned Parenthood. That didn’t work, so now they are implementing a dangerous gag rule for the Title X program that tells our health care providers what they can and cannot say to us.

Title X is the national program for affordable birth control and sexual and reproductive health care. Millions of people depend on Title X providers like Planned Parenthood for annual exams, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment, and birth control.

The gag rule forced Planned Parenthood and many other providers out of the program.

The gag rule forces providers to censor medical information about my health.

As a patient, developing an honest, trusting relationship with my providers is critical to my care. And as someone who made the decision to have an abortion in my 30s, I cannot imagine talking with my providers if I knew they were not allowed to be open and honest with me about my options and my health care. Being able to have multiple clear, informative conversations with my providers at Planned Parenthood about my abortion options and decision was incredibly important for me.

Under the gag rule, if I had gone to a Title X health center and asked where or how I could have an abortion, the provider would have to say: Information about how to get an abortion is not a part of this project but here is where to get prenatal care.

If my medical providers had responded that way I would have felt judged and controlled, like I was alone in finding resources, and that motherhood was being forced upon me by the very professionals I should be able to trust and feel safe with.

No one should have that experience.

The gag rule is destroying the nation’s reproductive health care system, making it even more difficult — and in some places impossible — for people to get affordable care.

It is disappointing that our elected officials have not taken the necessary steps to stop this from happening.

Congress has the power to stop this gag rule, and protect birth control and reproductive health care for millions of people. My representative, Chellie Pingree, and Rep. Jared Golden have already joined a majority of representatives in the House and voted to protect Title X.

Now we need our senators to do the same.

Sen. Angus King and Sen. Susan Collins have said they oppose the gag rule, and unlike me, they and their Senate colleagues can vote on the gag rule. It’s time for them to do so. For me, and the millions of other people in Maine and across the country who depend on Planned Parenthood and providers like them for our care.

Julia Whyel of Portland has been a Planned Parenthood patient for more than 20 years.

 



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