We glance back to a moment in 1970. President Richard Nixon signed the Title X family planning bill officially known as Public Law 91-572 or “Population Research and Voluntary Family Planning Programs” with overwhelming bipartisan support from Congress. Title X is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.
Title X is legally designed to prioritize the needs of low-income families or uninsured people who might not otherwise have access to these health care services and are provided at reduced or no cost. Its overall purpose is to promote positive birth outcomes and healthy families by allowing individuals to decide the number and spacing of their children. Title X funds have made the full range of methods of contraception accessible to millions of teens and low-income women and men. The program has significantly reduced the rates of unplanned pregnancy and abortion. In fact, the U.S. teen pregnancy and abortion rates are at an all-time low.
Now a dark shadow hangs over Title X. The Trump administration recently set new priorities for the Title X program. They emphasize natural family planning—the rhythm method. They diminish support for more effective and longer-lasting methods, such as the IUD and implant. Instead of requiring Title X providers to offer all types of birth control, the guidelines only require counseling on the rhythm or “fertility awareness” method. Ideology undermines Title X’s goal to support low-income women to have the number of children they want when they want them.
But that’s not all. Beyond Planned Parenthood many family planning centers also provide abortion care services. The new regulations require that Title X-funded services have full physical and financial separation from abortion-related care. Providers already separate accounting, billing, and record keeping. Now providers would need to separate treatment, consultation, examination, and waiting rooms, office entrances and exits, workstations, phone numbers, and staff. In other words, the new regulations could shut down rural family planning health centers.
The clinics receiving Title X funds will need to have a new vocabulary as well: abstinence-only-until-marriage education becomes “sexual risk avoidance” and the rhythm method becomes “fertility awareness” (charting the signs of fertility with your menstrual cycle). If a woman asks for a referral for an abortion, she will receive a list of providers of comprehensive prenatal care. It may not give any indication of which providers also offer abortion care services. Only a doctor can present the list. It is optional whether he/she does so.
So, who is most affected by these regulations? Low-income women. We all know that access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services allow women to reach their full potential, rise out of poverty, and have healthier lives.
Moving forward—What actions can we GRRs take in regard to Title X?
We can speak out. We can call our Members of Congress. Women of the older generation have experienced the time when abortion was illegal and access to contraception limited. Our voices are important and we have memories to share. For example, we know the risks of the rhythm method!
- Share your memories with younger women and men. Tell them about the days when we could not take for granted access to sexual and reproductive health services, including safe and legal abortion.
- Here are 13 different strategies you might consider in your state.
We can and must fight this attack on women’s rights. So use your voice, share your memories and work towards a better future. Yes, we can do it! GRR!!