The domestic gag rule endangers women, silences doctors, and brings us closer to a dystopian reality
Donald Trump is delivering on one of his most frightening campaign promises: Defunding Planned Parenthood.
In what is being described as the “domestic gag rule,” the administration has proposed an update to the Title X program. Under the $260 million proposal officially announced on May 22nd, women’s health clinics that provide abortions or abortion referrals would lose federal funding.
Trump’s proposal has a completely separate purpose, which is to control women’s bodies and limit our access to health care.
"This is an attempt to take away women’s basic rights, period. Under this rule, people will not get the health care they need. They won’t get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, or even general women’s health exams," Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement released on May 18th. "Everyone has the right to access information about their health care — including information about safe, legal abortion — and every woman deserves the best medical care and information, no matter how much money she makes or where she lives. No matter what. They won’t get it under this rule."
The domestic gag rule effectively silences doctors at Planned Parenthood and women’s health care clinics, prohibiting them from providing thorough, clear, and accurate information to their patients.
There’s no delicate way to phrase this — doctors will be prevented from doing their jobs. In turn, patients will be deprived of crucial information regarding their own health care options.
This plays directly into Trump’s goal of disempowering women and taking away our ability to make decisions about our own bodies. In an infuriating twist, Trump’s public announcement of the gag rule follows reports in which Bill Gates recalled that the president asked him to explain the difference between HPV and HIV not once, but twice.
Trump’s chances of passing a high school health test are slim to none, which makes it all the more horrifying that his administration is on an apparent mission to undermine competent doctors until it becomes impossible for them to do their jobs.
But even if the gag rule had been introduced by a president who possessed a basic grasp on sexual health and health care, its dangers are clear.
For evidence, we don’t need to look any further than the global gag rule, which the Trump administration imposed in 2017. The law blocks U.S. funding to foreign non-governmental organizations that provide abortions or information about the procedure.
Over the past year, the impact of the global gag rule has been devastating. Health workers in Kenya told CNN that the number of backstreet, dangerous abortion procedures has increased since the Trump administration eliminated family planning aid in the world’s least developed countries.
One woman told the outlet that without access to contraception, she got pregnant and chose to terminate the pregnancy because she didn’t have support from her husband. She obtained illegal abortion pills at a backstreet clinic, and one month after taking them, she was still bleeding.
In addition to forcing health care clinics to close their doors, the global gag rule has resulted in a greater number of unplanned pregnancies, unsafe abortions, and deaths from pregnancy-related complications.
The global gag rule has provided heartbreaking evidence of what we already know:
A report released by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in March confirmed that abortions performed in the United States are safe and have few complications — but it included the major caveat that “[a]bortion-specific regulations in many states create barriers to safe and effective care.”
In short, abortions are safe medical procedures until politicians actively work to make them unsafe. And, as of today, they’re well on their way to achieving this goal.
According to the World Health Organization, the complications from an unsafe abortion can be fatal. In many cases, women suffer infection, damage to internal organs, and heavy bleeding.
"Almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion, and timely care for complications," WHO wrote in its report.
There are myriad facts, figures, and statistics that clearly spell out exactly why the domestic gag rule is so dangerous. A look at the suffering inflicted by the global gag rule over the past year should, on its own, quash any support for bringing similar restrictions to America.
In addition to the cruelty it inflicts on women, the domestic gag rule also sets a dangerous precedent for doctors who could potentially face major consequences simply for doing their jobs.
"This 'gag rule' is not only unconscionable, but it undermines medical ethics by allowing health care professionals to withhold accurate and timely medical information from patients," Dr. Jenn Conti, fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health said in a statement released last week. "The government should be protecting Title X — a program designed to make sure that every person has access to basic, preventive reproductive health care."
If you go to the doctor to seek help and resources to treat a physical or mental health problem, it would be unethical, dangerous, and dystopian for that doctor to be legally barred from sharing every available treatment option that could help you. When it comes to reproductive health, this dystopia is on the verge of becoming a reality.
The fight continues. Read our helpful guide on becoming more involved with pro-choice activism here.