Ob/gyns and other women’s health providers can help save Title X for their patients and their voices need to be heard on Capitol Hill. That was the clear message from speakers at a recent media event in Washington, DC, who decried proposed changes to the Public Health Service Act as a disservice to the nation’s women and adolescents.
For more than 40 years, Title X family planning clinics have played a critical role in ensuring access to a broad range of family planning and related preventive health services for millions of low-income or uninsured individuals and others. Every year in the United States, more than 4 million people rely on Title X for essential care like family planning.
Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. Among the services available through Title X clinics are US Food and Drug Administration-approved contraception; screening and treatment of sexual transmitted infections; HIV testing, and pregnancy testing and counseling.
In June, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a proposal to prohibit clinics that provide abortions from receiving Title X funds. Currently Title X funds cannot be used for abortions but organizations that perform the procedures can receive grants and use that money for services other than abortion.
The 60-day comment period on the proposed rule, which was published in the Federal Register, ends on July 31. Ob/gyns and others who want an easy way to register their concerns can go to ACOG’s #SaveTitleX campaign webpage to quickly send a note to their elected officials.
Gathered at the headquarters of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, organizations that represent more than 700,000 health care providers in women’s health offered a list of top reasons to oppose the proposed rule and save Title X in its existing form. The proposed changes to the grant program, they said, would:
- Redirect critical Title X federal funds away from health care providers who offer information about the full range of reproductive health care options
- Restrict providers from delivering essential and medically accurate information to their patients
- Allow grantees to exclude certain forms of FDA-approved contraceptives and remove the requirement that contraceptive methods provided by Title X grantees be “medically approved”
- Exacerbate racial and socioeconomic disparities in access to care by leaving Title X patients, who are disproportionately black and latina, without alternate sources of care
- Reduce the United States’ historic achievements in reducing unplanned and teen pregnancy rates.
Underscoring the concerns about the Title X revisions, ACOG President Lisa Hollier, MD, said, “Government has no place in our exam rooms.” Representing the American College of Nurse-Midwives, Elizabeth Hill-Karbowski, PhD, CNM, said the proposed changes,“ put ideology over practice.”
Focusing on the benefits of current Title X funding, Mark Shahin, MD, of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology noted that the clinics, “provide lifesaving screenings to women who need it most.” Summing up the sentiments of the women’s health care providers, Hal C. Lawrence III, MD, ACOG executive vice president and chief executive officer said, “The changes to Title X are dangerous and unprecedented. We should work to empower women to make the best decisions possible based on science.”