Federal Representatives Join Mayor Pugh, Health Commissioner Dr. Wen, and Title X Grantees to Announce Opposition to Policies Threatening Women’s Health

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Proposed Rule Threatens Health of Four Million Nationwide, More Than 17,000 in Baltimore City 

Today, Baltimore City’s federal delegation joined Mayor Catherine E. Pugh, Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, and representatives from Baltimore City’s Title X grantees to warn of the potential impact that new restrictions on Title X funds would have on women and families in Baltimore City and across the nation.

In May, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed radical changes to the Title X Family Planning Program that, if finalized, will put the health of millions in jeopardy. The proposed rule, Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements, would prevent funding from going to any health centers that perform abortions or are affiliated with those that do, and prohibit providers from referring pregnant women to evidence-based reproductive health choices, or even discussing them – a “gag” rule. The Title X program serves 4 million Americans a year, and is the only federal program focused on family planning and reproductive health and screening services.

The Baltimore City Health Department oversees Title X funding for the City, which is distributed to 23 sites run by the Health Department, Baltimore Medical System, Family Health Centers of Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Hospital, and University of Maryland Medical System. In 2016, Baltimore City’s Title X clinics served 17,117 patients, amounting to a total of 24,819 visits. Title X funding supports clinics that not only provide reproductive health services, but also vital, evidence-based health care services such as cancer screenings, contraception, HIV testing and counseling, substance use and mental health screenings, and specialist referrals that many Baltimore City residents would not otherwise be able to afford. One in three women in Baltimore City are in need of publicly-funded health care services to access contraception. 

Title X is a major contributor to the historic lows in unintended teen pregnancy, including in Baltimore where teen birth rates decreased 61 percent between 2000 and 2016. In 2010, Maryland’s Title X services saved the state nearly $148 million.  

“In Baltimore, we’ve celebrated significant accomplishments in advancing women’s health, including drastic declines in teen birth rates. Without question, these cuts threaten the gains we have made to improve health and well-being for women and families,” said Mayor Pugh.

“Title X funding is crucial to preserving access to affordable health care and essential for promoting women’s reproductive health across the nation and in Maryland alike. Cuts to Title X will harm our most vulnerable communities and put thousands of women and children at great risk should they lose access to its services. The administration’s attack on Title X is a continuation of attempts to limit women’s health and reproductive rights. And it is an attempt to wrongly empower states to obstruct access to affordable health care for low-income families and communities of color,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, a member of the Senate Finance Committee. “I applaud the determined efforts in Baltimore and around the state to mitigate these actions and will continue to join them in battling the administration’s policies that harm our local communities.”

“Title X funding provides crucial health services to women and families across Maryland – from cancer screenings, to maternal care, to pregnancy counseling. Restricting funding means restricting critical access to these health care services, and that will have a harmful impact throughout our state. I urge HHS to reconsider this proposal, and I will continue to fight against this action tooth and nail,” said Senator Chris Van Hollen.  

“The changes made by this proposed rule would greatly impede women’s access to family planning resources and ensure that low-income women have fewer health care providers to rely upon for comprehensive, quality reproductive care,” Congressman Elijah E. Cummings said. “The Trump Administration is trying to insert itself into one of the most intimate conversations between a patient and health care provider. This is just another example of the Republican obsession with closing Planned Parenthood, and the Trump Administration’s all-out assault on health care.”

“Throughout my time in Congress, I have continually fought for women’s access to care, and against efforts to reduce a woman’s right to control her own body. Now, more than ever, we must come together to speak out against recent assaults on this access,” said Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger. “I am happy to join my colleagues to discuss this important issue, and to shed more light on the impacts these changes will have on the residents of Baltimore.”

“The Trump Administration’s cruel attempt to gut federal funding from community clinics will undermine women’s access to quality health care,” said Congressman John Sarbanes. “We cannot let President Trump and his Republican allies in Congress continue to attack women’s rights. We must stand together and protect these important resources for our community.”

“The proposed changes in Title X would roll back gains to health and opportunity, undermine patient rights, and fundamentally change the landscape of reproductive health and the clinician-patient relationship,” said Dr. Wen. “Reproductive health is a critical part of every woman’s health care. Standard medical care should be based on science, not ideology. The fundamental right to health cannot be a privilege reserved only for those who can afford it.”

Public comment on the proposed rule is open until July 31.

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