New Trump administration attack: Reviving the abortion “gag rule”

Reproductive freedom, along with the sexual health of poor and working class people, is under attack once again as the Trump administration moves to implement a rule that would deny government funding to any facility that provides or refers patients to abortion services. This new regulation would cut off Title X funding, which supplies over $260 million a year to facilities that help provide healthcare services such as contraception, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, as well as cancer screenings.

In order to continue to receive government funding, healthcare practitioners would not be allowed to give patients counseling and information about their full list of options for services that include abortion care. They would be “gagged” from even telling patients that abortion is an option, more or less where they could receive the care for one or what that would entail. This is a grossly irresponsible and unjust manipulation of government power, effectively restricting access to information about a patient’s legal right to obtain an abortion.

Another attack in the war on the right to choose

The increase in legal restrictions being implemented on the federal level and state by state around abortion care are disproportionately impacting rural, poor and working class women. These regulations result in some patients having to travel 4 to 9 hours from their homes, forcing them to take days off of work for a procedure, if surgical, lasts on average only 10 minutes and requires no general anesthesia. Beyond this legislation creating an undue burden on people seeking abortion care, the burden is multiplied for poor and working people who find themselves up against financial, informational and logistical burdens.

For many of those who know abortion is an option and where they could obtain one, the steps that must be taken in order to do so almost void it as an option. Some cannot take the time off of work to travel to a facility, do not have access to transportation or cannot secure childcare arrangements. For some, the closest clinic may be past a border patrol checkpoint, creating an exceptional risk for undocumented people if they are to pursue obtaining abortion care at a licensed facility.

These difficulties on top of social stigma are pushing more and more people to try to self-induce abortion, without the guidance or observation of any medical professional. According to a study by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) in 2015 an estimated 100,000 to 240,000 women in Texas ages 18 to 49 have attempted to end a pregnancy without medical consultation or care. Many reported taking Misoprostol, a drug used to induce abortion medically in conjunction with other medication, which without medical supervision carries unnecessary risks including internal bleeding and infections due to incomplete or partial abortion. Other women reported using illicit drugs, alcohol, being punched in the abdomen, taking hormonal pills or herbal preparations in an effort to terminate a pregnancy.

The findings of this study suggested the large number of attempted self-induced abortion was directly influenced by the mass closure of clinics that provided local, affordable abortion care. There should be no reason for hundreds of thousands of women to resort to unsafe, unsanitary or unsupervised measures to terminate a pregnancy when medical and surgical abortions are safe and legal.

In Oklahoma and Arkansas, there are now only three clinics that provide abortion care. West Virginia and Kentucky each have just two. In Mississippi, there is only one. These few and far between clinics have to struggle not only to find the capacity to provide care for thousands of people, but to stay open under a constant onslaught from both anti-choice organizations as well as the federal and state governments. If facilities choose not to comply with the Trump administration’s revived “gag rule” or are found to have violated it, the loss of federal funding could cause the shuttering of even more reproductive healthcare facilities, fortifying some of the already insurmountable barriers being put in place to keep millions of people across the United States from obtaining vital healthcare.

Reproductive and sexual health centers like Planned Parenthood provide an indispensible service. They often provide free screenings, sliding-scale fees for most services and comprehensive exams that can save lives. The loss of these clinics, or any restriction on what health services they may provide, will no doubt contribute to a rapid decline in general health for those of us experiencing poverty and already insufficient healthcare.

Abortion is healthcare. As socialists, we recognize that everyone deserves equal and unfettered access to healthcare, including all the information to make decisions about their own care, regardless of their ability to pay for services. We will fight back, tirelessly and without apology, to insure the reproductive freedom of all people, and especially for those who will suffer now under these most acute and repressive government attacks.

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