Everything you need to know about Trump’s domestic gag rule on abortion

Blog / October 2, 2019

What does the domestic gag rule do?

The rule forbids healthcare providers that rely on federal Title X family planning funding – like Planned Parenthood – from providing or making referrals for abortion services. That means that doctors at any healthcare clinic that receive Title X funding are no longer able to talk to you about abortion and can’t even refer you directly to an abortion provider.


How will this impact our healthcare?

Title X provides funding for family planning services for about 4 million low-income women across the country, enabling them access to vital healthcare like birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV-testing, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases. Those who most rely on Title X services – people of color, patients living in rural and underserved areas, and low-income patients – will face the greatest harm, as their access to fully informed and comprehensive reproductive healthcare will be diminished under the new policy.

For six in ten women seeking services from Title X clinics, it is the primary medical care they receive.


Did you know that abortion was (already) not funded by federal dollars before this rule?

Planned Parenthood and other providers were already prohibited from using Title X funding for abortion before this rule was instated. The gag rule takes this restriction to extremes by putting up new barriers between physicians and their patients – potentially forcing providers to either lie to their patients or close their doors.


Did you know that religiously affiliated non-profits will now qualify for Title X funding (alongside real health clinics)?!

The new rule allows Title X funding to be diverted from genuine medical providers to faith-based groups, like those that operate crisis pregnancy centers notorious for lying to pregnant people about their options or to programs that promote abstinence and the “rhythm method” instead of the pill. As a result, women who rely on a Title X-funded clinic for their healthcare could be given false information or a limited range of birth control options dictated by the moral beliefs of the organization instead of medical science.


What’s the latest news on the gag rule?

Despite substantial opposition, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in July that the new restrictions could take effect. Initially, the rule had been blocked by a nationwide temporary injunction in federal court. That judge cited the barriers the rules would create for access to medical care and questioned how it would impact ethical standards in the healthcare profession. The Trump administration appealed the ruling, and as of August 19th 2019, any entity receiving Title X funding could no longer perform abortions or refer patients to other facilities for abortions. 

This same day, Planned Parenthood announced that they will refuse further Title X dollars with the Trump restrictions in place. The final ruling on whether or not the new rules will hold remains before the courts. Oral arguments were heard in September before the Ninth Circuit, and a ruling is expected sometime in the fall. 

There has been substantial public opposition to this domestic gag rule: the public submitted more than 500,000 comments to the Department of Health and Human Services opposing the rule, along with 200 members of Congress, more than 20 state and local health departments and a number of major medical associations, including the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Several Attorneys General have also announced lawsuits against the gag rule.

So far, three states have offered state resources to supplement the loss of funding to Title X clinics. Other states, including New York, have agreed to reject the conditional federal funding, should the Title X rule pull through the litigation process. 

This is no more than a back door approach to defunding Planned Parenthood and abortion providers across the country. It is a dangerous policy that will put the health and lives of women and low-income patients at risk.