SAN FRANCISCO — The Trump administration won a battle in the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (6/4) effectively banning abortions for undocumented minors held in detention. Meanwhile, women’s-rights activists and some medical experts say the administration’s proposed “gag rule” on reproductive health could increase unintended pregnancies and abortions.
Last week President Donald Trump announced a new rule that makes it illegal for doctors, nurses, hospitals and community health centers that participate in the federal Title 10 program to tell patients how they can safely and legally access abortion. Title 10 was established in 1970, to provide affordable birth control and reproductive health care to America’s low-income population.
Jennifer Conti, a doctor with Stanford University and a fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said the federal government is incentivizing clinics to stop offering abortion if they also want to provide birth control to the nation’s poorest residents.
“This is a gag rule,” Conti said. “As an abortion provider, if I can talk about abortion but I can’t talk about where or how to obtain one, then essentially I am being gagged in that I am being forced to lie to my patients by omission.”
So far, 13 governors across the country have signed a letter to the Secretary of Health and Human Services opposing the rule. A poll by Hart Research Associates showed 73 percent of Americans also oppose the rule.
According to the latest estimates, Planned Parenthood health centers serve 41 percent of low-income, or Title 10 patients, despite only accounting for 13 percent of Title 10 centers. Conti said conservative politicians often support de-funding Planned Parenthood as a way to end all abortions, but she said the larger issue is access to reproductive health care for women and men.
“De-funding Planned Parenthood does not mean de-funding abortions, because federal money does not pay for abortions,” she explained. “De-funding Planned Parenthood means de-funding pap smears.”
The U.S. has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world, with black women in the U.S. almost 3.5 times as likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. Conti noted that while the predominately Catholic country of Ireland overwhelming voted to repeal its abortion ban last month, the Trump administration is making “choice” harder and harder for American women.
“I think it’s ironic that at a time when you see a country like Ireland repealing or essentially undoing their harsh abortion laws, we here in America – in this country we like to consider so forward and progressive – are going backward,” she said.
By one estimate, unsafe abortion takes the lives of 47,000 women worldwide every year.