The New York State Department of Health has announced that the state will withdraw from the federal Title X family planning program rather than comply with the Trump administration’s dangerous gag rule.

The rule — which has been allowed to go into effect as a federal appeals court hears one of the many legal cases challenging the administration’s changes to the federal program — restricts health care providers that receive Title X family planning funding from referring patients for abortion care or performing them.

“We applaud Gov. Cuomo and state public health officials for their decision to reject Title X funding as long as the coercive, unethical gag rule is in effect,” Debra Marcus, chief executive officer of Family Planning of South Central New York, said. “And we also urge the governor to release the $16 million designated by the state legislature to help offset this loss of millions of federal grant dollars.”

Specifically, the gag rule:

  • Mandates coercive counseling of pregnant patients, rather than patient centered information that would allow voluntary, fully informed decision making;
  • Restricts sites that participate in Title X from referring pregnant clients to abortion providers;
  • Eliminates current requirements for Title X sites to provide non-directive pregnancy options counseling that includes information about prenatal care/delivery, adoption, and abortion;
  • Encourages participation by organizations that do not provide medically effective contraception, and may only offer the least effective fertility awareness method;
  • Weakens confidentiality protections, particularly for adolescents; and
  • Blocks the availability of federal funds to family planning providers that also offer abortion services;

“The administration’s gag rule will have a devastating impact on the nation’s family planning safety net,” Marcus said.

Title X, which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, is the only federal program specifically focused on supporting the delivery of family planning care to millions of low income, uninsured and under-served people.

Marcus said the gag rule, as well as a host of other regulation changes implemented by the Trump administration, seek to compromise the patient centered program’s long standing intent and integrity — and in doing so, an individual’s reproductive autonomy.

“The relationship between a patient and their medical care provider is rooted in honesty and trust. This dangerous gag rule violates that trust, and puts patients’ health and wellness at risk,” she said.

While Family Planning does not provide abortion care services at any of its five local health centers, the agency’s health care professionals do provide patients with nonjudgmental, all-options pregnancy counseling — including providing information about, and referrals for, abortion care.

“Patients deserve and have a right to receive accurate, complete information about their health care. And we will continue to provide that information. And those referrals. Regardless of the new federal rule,” she said.

That’s why, Marcus continued, Family Planning’s leadership and medical staff remain unwavering in their commitment to providing the same affordable, comprehensive and compassionate reproductive health care to the communities they serve have relied on for more than 75 years.

“Health care should be about putting the patient first — not politics,” Marcus said.