The first time I went into a Planned Parenthood, I was trying to find out my options for birth control. I was 19 and going to college, working toward my degree in Minneapolis, and knew it wasn’t the time to be pregnant.
So I went to Planned Parenthood. Like millions of people every year, my birth control was completely covered thanks to Title X.
Title X is the nation’s only program focused on increasing access to affordable reproductive health care. I am one of the 4 million people in this country who relies on Title X for basic care — birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatment. And, like 40 percent of people who rely on Title X, I get that care at Planned Parenthood.
But this week, Planned Parenthood is being forced out of Title X because of a new rule from the Trump administration, known as the gag rule. The gag rule makes it illegal for any provider in the Title X program to tell patients how or where to access abortion, and puts in place “physical separation” restrictions on health centers that provide abortion — rules that are clearly meant to push Planned Parenthood health centers out of Title X.
The gag rule will be devastating to people like me. People with low incomes will be forced to either go to a provider who won’t give us all of our medical options, pay out-of-pocket and go without groceries or paying bills, or just go without care altogether. How many women like me will have to go without birth control, or skip their annual exam, because a group of men in Washington, D.C. have an ideological agenda that opposes our wellbeing? Just because they don’t like the work Planned Parenthood does? Federal law already prohibits federal funds from going toward abortion — a policy that punishes people with low incomes and puts their constitutional right to abortion out of reach — so the gag rule is not only harmful, it’s completely pointless.
No one wants this rule except the Trump administration and their anti-abortion, anti-women’s health allies (like the anti-abortion group Obria in California, which is now getting $1.7 million from Title X even though they don’t provide birth control). The major medical associations — the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American College of Physicians, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the National Association of Community Health Centers — all firmly oppose the gag rule.
Attacking Planned Parenthood patients by restricting Title X is deceptive and underhanded, because most people don’t even know that Title X is covering their care. They just know when they go to Planned Parenthood, they will be covered and they can afford it. I had no idea I was relying on Title X until this year.
Now, when patients go to Planned Parenthood, they won’t know why their birth control or cancer screenings are more expensive. They won’t know they’re paying the price for the administration’s political games. And because people of color make up the majority of Title X patients, we will be the biggest losers.
When I walked into Planned Parenthood for the first time, I didn’t only get birth control. I found a place where people of all races, backgrounds and income levels were welcomed and treated with dignity and respect. I found a place where I finally felt comfortable to ask questions, and in return I got the sex education I had been denied growing up in Missouri public schools. And when the first kind of birth control I tried had too many side effects, I went back to Planned Parenthood because I know they’re experts who will work with me until we find the right method. That’s what millions of people could now lose.
Today, I am a young professional, working in the non-profit sector, with future plans of government public policy work. I am where I am because of Planned Parenthood and Title X.
The question now is whether I will be able to afford my next appointment.
Planned Parenthood and others are fighting the gag rule in the courts, but that won’t help the people who need care now. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed legislation to block the gag rule. It’s in the Senate’s hands now.
We need our leaders to take action. For millions of people like me, our health and our futures hang in the balance.
Kia Whittier is from Minnesota where she recently was a part of Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund’s Sex & Politics League. She works as an advocate for victims/survivors of sexual and domestic violence and hopes that, through her storytelling, she can empower folks to own their story.