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Why Planned Parenthood believes Title X rule change will compromise patient health

Under a new rule proposed by the Trump administration, family-planning clinics that receive federal funds through Title X would be prevented from referring women to other providers for abortions. One organization that would be affected is Planned Parenthood, whose president, Dr. Leana Wen, talks to William Brangham about why the move would compromise patient health as well as medical ethics.

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  • William Brangham:

    As we discussed, this rule change will obviously have a big impact on Planned Parenthood.

    That organization, in addition to offering other health care services, does perform abortions.

    Joining me now is Dr. Leana Wen, the president of Planned Parenthood.

    Dr. Wen, thank you very much for being here.

    I'm just curious. You have heard this conversation and you have heard the supporters of this rule change. What is your reaction?

  • Dr. Leana Wen:

    My reaction is that we have to talk about the real impact of the Title X gag rule and who it will impact, which is four million women and families with low income.

    Title X was intended to serve those who otherwise would have trouble accessing health care. It's families with low income. It's people who live in rural areas. It's people who don't have health insurance.

    And we're talking about breast and cervical cancer screenings, about STI and HIV tests, about preventive care, affordable birth control. And the Title X gag rule would dismantle the safety net program. And the impact is going to be putting women's health care at risk all across the country.

    For so many of the patients who rely on Title X, we are their only source of health care.

  • William Brangham:

    But supporters of this change, the administration, as you heard Mr. Denny just refer to, they believe that if the funding goes to other organizations, that those other organizations will fill the gap and take up those other services that you worry are going to disappear.

  • Dr. Leana Wen:

    But that's just not what the evidence and science show us.

    We know that, when people cannot go to their provider of choice, they delay care or go without care altogether. We saw what happened in Texas when politicians forced Planned Parenthood health centers to close, and 30,000 fewer women got access to health care.

    In Iowa, when our health centers were forced to close, again because of restrictive laws that politicians passed, we saw that the rates of sexually transmitted infections skyrocketed. This is about people's lives.

    In this country, we have huge unmet need. And what this Title X gag rule does is to punish those who already face a disproportionate barrier when it comes to health care.

  • William Brangham:

    If this rule change goes forward, and you're required to be financially and physically separate, what would that mean to Planned Parenthood clinics all over the country?

  • Dr. Leana Wen:

    Well, I want to talk about what this means for patients, for people's health care, and what it means for patient rights, because the Title X gag rule also has a gag, which is to prohibits doctors and nurses from telling our patients full and accurate medical information.

    That compromises the oath that I took when I became a doctor. You can't be telling patients, well, I can't give you referrals, go look at the Internet yourself. I mean, that's just not appropriate. It's preventing us — it's having President Trump and the Trump administration telling doctors what we can and cannot tell our patients about their health options.

    That's why over 100 physician and public health groups oppose this gag rule, including the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association. And it is something that we as Planned Parenthood will not stand for.

  • William Brangham:

    Dr. Wen, if it does, if the rule proceeds as planned, though, what might that mean for clinics? I mean, would you simply have to forego that money? Or would you go through the process of trying to somehow disentangle your facilities financially and physically?

  • Dr. Leana Wen:

    Planned Parenthood will not accept gag funds. We will never force our physicians and nurses to censor themselves.

    And we would never ask our patients to come to a health center that provides them with incomplete and inaccurate medical information. That's just not who we are. Now, if the Title X gag rule were implemented, we know that fewer health centers would accept these funds.

    And, as a result, its patients are going to suffer, because patients will not have access to the care that they need. We, as Planned Parenthood, though, will fight back through every avenue, because it's our promise to our patients that we will be here for you.

  • William Brangham:

    All right, Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, thank you very much.

  • Dr. Leana Wen:

    Thank you.

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