Citing ‘abortion,’ Trump trashes birth control, cancer screenings for poor women | Editorial

Posted March 5, 2019

California and 20 other Democratic-led states announced they were challenging the Trump administration’s effort to set up obstacles for women seeking abortions, including barring taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Monday that the state filed its own federal lawsuit in San Francisco that aims to block a new family planning rule from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. Opponents of the rule say it would shift millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood to faith-based family planning organizations.

Twenty states and Washington, D.C., said they would sue separately Tuesday. The states are: Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The irony is, by depriving poor women of birth control and basic health care at the few clinics available to them, you make abortion more common, not less.

This new rule, which goes into effect in about 60 days – if it survives court challenges – puts preposterous new conditions on Title X money, a federal fund for family planning that has existed for decades.

It’s money used to serve low-income women, allowing them to pay for cancer screenings and contraceptives on a sliding scale, to ensure that everyone, regardless of income, can access them.

It’s already illegal to use it for abortion. But Trump now says that to qualify for this funding, clinics that perform the procedure under their roof must build entirely separate wings with separate staff to do it.

This resembles laws in states like Texas, which impose medically unnecessary requirements on the few clinics that perform abortions – like a wider hallway or bigger janitor’s closet – forcing them to shut down or cut services to pay for silly renovations. This is harassment, and has nothing to do with public health.

The real goal is to make it harder for low income women to get abortions. Not only do they have to travel further or wait until later in pregnancy to get one; when clinics shut down, they can’t even get birth control or a breast cancer screening.

And Trump’s rule doesn’t just require prohibitively expensive renovations. It also forbids referring women to abortion providers – the so-called “gag rule” – and says clinics funded by Title X will no longer be required to present women with all their options, including prenatal vitamins and checkups, adoption or abortion.

This means a man like Mike Pence could open a clinic that hides medical options from women, pushes unreliable “natural” family planning and unscientific mumbo jumbo, and get federal funding – while a clinic that gives sound medical advice can’t, because it doesn’t have a second entrance. That’s Handmaid’s Tale madness.

Planned Parenthood says it will not compromise women’s health by relenting to this, and will lose the federal funding – between $50 and $60 million a year, $8.8 million of which goes to clinics in New Jersey. We know how women will suffer for it. We saw what happened after a lesser funding cut in our state.

After former Gov. Chris Christie slashed $7.5 million in state dollars for family planning back in 2010 – money since restored by Gov. Murphy – six clinics were forced to close. The same could happen again.

Under Christie’s cut, we saw a predictable spike in gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, breast and cervical cancer cases, and tens of thousands of women ceased to get treatment. Those served by the shuttered clinics were not picked up by other providers, as Christie promised they would be. Now Trump wants to replicate this nationally.

Powerful men who oppose a woman’s right to make her own health care choices always start with the easiest target: Women in poverty.

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