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What Are the Effects of the Gag Rule?

The gag rule will cause insurmountable harm. When the Trump administration announced the policy last spring, the opposition was so strong that the administration had to abandon its plan of quickly finalizing and pushing it through. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) was flooded with an astounding 500,000 public comments denouncing the rule. Across the country, there were rallies, marches, protests, phonebanks, and more. Make no mistake — we’ll continue to keep up the fight.

Here’s a look at the widespread effects of the administration's gag rule — including how it’s designed to further the agenda to roll back access to abortion and birth control.

Designed to block millions from care at Planned Parenthood health centers

Make no mistake, the gag rule is an attack on the patients who rely on Planned Parenthood. That’s because Planned Parenthood health centers serve 41% of the 4 million patients — or more than 1.6 million people — who get care through the Title X program.

In many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only source of reproductive health care. When patients can’t seek care from Planned Parenthood, many will have nowhere else to go and community health centers themselves say they couldn’t fill the gap. Many people will delay getting health care or simply go without it altogether.

Severely limits access to affordable sexual and reproductive care, including birth control

President Trump has stacked his administration with officials who’ve spent their entire careers trying to erode access to birth control. Many — like Diane Foley, who oversees the Title X program — used to lead organizations dedicated to promoting abstinence-only-until-marriage programs or otherwise restricting access to sexual and reproductive health care and education. For these Trump officials, the gag rule is a dream come true. 

The rule makes even more room for the administration to pursue its goal of rolling back access to birth control and focusing exclusively on abstinence-only-until-marriage programs — even though research shows those programs are harmful and ineffective.

Threatens to lead to a sicker, less healthy nation

We know the consequences of the gag rule because a similar dangerous measure in effect on a global scale. One of the Trump-Pence administration's very first acts in office was to reinstate and expand a "global gag rule," which bans international groups from receiving U.S. global health funding if they even so much as mention abortion-related services.

Evidence has shown that the global gag rule leads to increases in unsafe abortion, as well as unintended pregnancies, women dying from pregnancy-related complications, and infant and child deaths. It also leads to health center closures, which leave people with no place to go for health care. We should be ending the global gag rule — not importing a version of it to the U.S.

Serves as a barrier to women’s constitutional right to access safe, legal abortion

Trump has made clear time and time again that he wants to restrict women’s access to safe and legal abortion. The gag rule is a step toward that goal. It censors — or “gags” — health care providers, so that they can’t tell women about how and where to access abortion — even if the patient asks. Under the gag rule, if someone is pregnant and wants or needs an abortion, their provider is prohibited from telling them where to get one. Even if a woman’s pregnancy would severely affect her health — for example, if she discovers that she’s pregnant after being diagnosed with cancer — her doctor would not be able to refer her for needed care.

It’s dangerous and unethical for doctors to keep information from their patients. The gag rule makes it crystal clear that the administration is more interested in restricting access to abortion and pushing its ideology on women than it is in protecting their health, livelihood, and freedoms.