February 22, 2019 Press Release

Trump’s Health Department Gags Providers; Denies Abortion Information to Patients In Health Program for Low-Income People

Further evidence that HHS, Secretary Alex Azar are pandering to anti-abortion lobby

02.22.19 – Despite the fact that they received thousands of comments opposing it, Alex Azar’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) earlier today finalized the extreme and discriminatory domestic gag rule, which prohibits health care providers who receive Title X family planning funds from referring patients to safe and legal abortion services. Today’s rule will also severely jeopardize patients’ ability to get birth control and other basic health care services at health care providers who receive federal money to provide birth control to low-income patients, including Planned Parenthood.

“Alex Azar and Trump’s health department continue to disregard the needs of low-income people as they strip them of access to health care. This rule says that doctors may give information about health care options to some people, but not to others, meaning that those who get their care through America’s family planning program don’t get the same information and counsel as people with higher incomes,” said Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward.  

“Our nation’s health department should be working to expand health care access, not devising schemes that silence health care providers and rob some women of their right to basic health care information they may need to make the choices that are right for themselves and their families.

“Yet again, Alex Azar’s HHS has chosen to bend to the callous and cruel demands of the anti-abortion lobby, ignoring the advice of medical experts and the scientific community. It is simply unethical that Alex Azar — who has claimed that science will rule the day at HHS — is using these cowardly methods to come between millions of women and their health care.”

Title X — which was started in the 1970s by President Nixon — is an extremely popular and successful program, serving approximately 4 million people a year. Today’s rule was supported by the anti-abortion lobby, and in particular by Susan B. Anthony (SBA) List, a political organization that endorsed this rule when it was first announced last spring. In fact, SBA List has had an outsized influence on Alex Azar’s HHS, especially regarding the agency’s attempts to dismantle Title X — the nation’s family planning program — and further restrict abortion access. Steven Valentine, who serves as Chief of Staff for the Assistant Secretary of Health at HHS, is a former SBA List employee, while his brother is a Vice President at the organization. Trump also spoke at this year’s SBA List annual gala, where he touted his efforts to silence health care providers from discussing all options with their patients.

Azar’s HHS has a long history of creating ways to come between women and their health care.  Less than 24 hours after the midterm elections, HHS issued two final rules that would further empower employers to discriminate against their female employees by denying insurance coverage for birth control while also issuing a rule that would further drive insurance coverage for abortion out of reach by forcing insurers who cover the procedure to charge women in a separate monthly bill.