March 19, 2019

Senators Warren, Hassan, and Colleagues Request HELP Hearing to Assess the Impacts of Title X Rule

“Domestic Gag Rule” Would Restrict Patient Access to High-Quality Family Planning Services

Washington, DC – United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), along with Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Robert Casey (D-Pa.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.) yesterday sent a letter to Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP Committee) and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ranking Member on the HELP Committee, requesting a hearing to assess the impacts of the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) recently-released rule regarding the Title X Family Planning Program (Title X).
On March 4, 2019, HHS published a final rule in the Federal Register that, if implemented, would severely restrict the ability of health care providers at Title X-funded health centers to offer patients high-quality family planning services and would make it difficult for Title X health centers to operate under the newly-proposed, onerous requirements.
Title X has historically received bipartisan support and is the only federal program dedicated to providing family planning services to people with low incomes. In keeping with longstanding medical, ethical, and legal standards of health care, Title X providers can offer patients medically accurate counseling on and referrals for all pregnancy options, including parenting, adoption, and abortion; however, Title X providers cannot offer abortion services with federal funds. The recently-released Title X rule would undermine the program’s ability to provide high-quality health services to its millions of patients. The rule:

  • Imposes a “gag rule” on doctors by prohibiting health care providers at Title X-funded health centers from referring patients for abortion services, even if patients specifically request a referral, and even if counseling on parenting and adoption options has also been offered;

  • Loosens the quality requirements that have defined the Title X program since its inception—weakening the standards of care and paving the way for unqualified providers to access Title X funds; and

  • Reduces access to care for patients by requiring facilities that receive Title X funds to be physically and financially separate from facilities that perform abortions, even though Title X funds are already prohibited from being used for abortions. This move directly targets Planned Parenthood.
“The effects of this requirement would be devastating nationwide and in our home states,” wrote the senators. “We urge you to hold a hearing so we can fulfill our responsibility to scrutinize the policy with the due diligence it deserves.”
As a champion for women’s reproductive rights, Senator Warren, in May 2018, sent a letter along with 200 colleagues to HHS Secretary Alex Azar expressing opposition to the implementation of a domestic gag rule on Title X. The senator also authored an op-ed for TIME opposing President Trump’s proposal.