The Trump administration's attacks on women and their reproductive freedoms are ramping up — and the White House's recent move to reinstate a "domestic gag rule" is proof. The policy would forbid doctors and healthcare providers from sharing information about abortion services or options with women seeking their guidance, holding their federal funding hostage unless they comply. Dr. Gillian Dean, senior director of medical services at Planned Parenthood, wants you to know that she and her colleagues are ready to fight back . . . but they need your help.
"Forcing healthcare providers to withhold information flies in the face of the ethical underpinnings of our practice."
"We are speaking out and organizing as healthcare providers to stop the government from preventing us from giving the best possible care to our patients," Dr. Dean told POPSUGAR. We spoke on the phone with Dr. Dean on July 23, the day before a planned protest of the domestic gag rule will unite Planned Parenthood supporters, members of Congress, Title X patients, healthcare providers, and more in a march from Capitol Hill to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Read on for our conversation on what exactly is at stake should the domestic gag rule be reinstated, the ethical dilemma this proposed policy presents to healthcare providers, and the simple action everyone can take right now to ensure the quality of care provided by Title X-funded clinics is protected.
POPSUGAR: Can you speak to what exactly the Trump administration's proposed changes are to Title X, as well as what you interpret the end goal of those changes to be?
Dr. Gillian Dean: Title X provides many important reproductive resources, including screening for cancer and screening for sexually transmitted infection (STI), in addition to providing birth control and pregnancy and options counseling. So what the Trump administration is proposing is what we are calling a "domestic gag rule." Basically, that would block providers who receive Title X funding from providing full and complete information to patients with pregnancies who are seeking termination. So we would not be able, under this proposed rule, to provide complete options for a patient facing an undesired or medically complicated pregnancy.
PS: Should this domestic gag rule go into effect, which specific communities would be the most at risk?
GD: Well, what [the domestic gag rule] would do would be to deepen the already existing disparities in access to reproductive healthcare services that we see in the US. That would create two kinds of people: the kinds of people who rely on Title X and people who don't. And people who rely on Title X would not be able to know if they were getting full, complete, and accurate information from their healthcare providers when seeking information about pregnancy options. This would disproportionately affect low-income women, young women, and women of color, because the majority of patients who rely on Title X, or are on the Title X program currently, are patients from those groups.
"We are speaking out and organizing as healthcare providers to stop the government from preventing us from giving the best possible care to our patients."
PS: Speaking to your expertise within the medical community, how do you believe this would affect doctors' abilities to carry out their jobs from day to day?
GD: I think it puts doctors in an untenable ethical quandary. Because it makes healthcare providers — not just doctors, but we're talking about healthcare providers [like] nurses, advanced practice clinicians, as well as physicians — face a choice between accepting Title X funds and being able to serve the patients who rely on them [by] providing complete and accurate information to patients with answers to their questions about their health care. As medical providers, we are charged with putting our patients first, and part of doing so is providing accurate, unbiased information in response to their healthcare questions, and to serve their healthcare needs. Forcing healthcare providers to withhold information flies in the face of the ethical underpinnings of our practice; of the way we are trained to serve the patient. This is a beyond difficult situation for healthcare providers.
PS: Finally, are there any specific actions that you would want our readers to take to ensure that Title X funding is protected and the domestic gag rule doesn't go into effect?
GD: Yes, absolutely. In addition to the gathering in [Washington DC] tomorrow, one easy and important way to take action is to speak out against the gag rule by texting "NOGAGRULE" to 22422.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.