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Tell the Administration: Let Doctors Speak, Let Women Make Their Own Decisions

Urgent: Your Voice is Needed to Protect Women's Health!

The Department of Health and Human Services recently proposed a regulation that would deny organizations that provide abortions or abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds. This regulation, known as the “domestic gag rule,” would erode women’s reproductive rights, undermine free speech, and violate the sacred doctor-patient relationship. We cannot stand by as the administration tries to silence doctors and control women’s bodies.  

From now until July 31, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services is accepting comments on this proposed rule from the publicThere are already thousands of comments in favor of this dangerous rule submitted to the federal register. It is essential that we demonstrate our strong opposition to this deeply harmful proposal!  

Use the instructions and sample comment below to submit your comments to the administration. We also invite you to add your own views or personal story about the importance of reproductive health care and the sacred doctor-patient relationship. 

 

Access to Health Care is a Jewish Value.

Jewish tradition teaches that a doctor is obligated to heal, and a person who prevents a physician from doing so is considered to have shed blood (Shulchan Arukh Yore De’ah 336:1). Restricting the information doctors can give their patients prevents physicians from healing to the best of their abilities. This is a sin that violates the sacred doctor-patient relationship. 

 

What is the "Domestic Gag Rule"?  

On June 1, the Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed rule that would bar any organization that performs abortion or refers patients for abortion with their own private money from receiving Title X federal grant money. Title X is the nation’s only program dedicated to providing affordable birth control and reproductive health care on a national scale. Four million women rely on Title X funded services, 41 percent of whom receive at least some care at a Planned Parenthood center, for a range of reproductive health services, including breast cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease screenings, and contraception. Federal law already bars government funds from being used to provide abortion services. But currently, organizations like Planned Parenthood that provide abortion can still receive Title X funding so long as that money is used only for non-abortion family planning services. Title X grants include a requirement that a doctor must counsel women on their full range of family planning options, including abortion.  

Some of the most concerning changes the rule proposes are:

  • Removing the words “medically approved” from the requirements of programs (§59.5(a)(1)).
  • Instead of barring organizations that “provide” abortion, expanding this prohibition to organizations that “provide, promote, refer for, support, or present abortion as a method of family planning” (§59.5(a)(5)).
  • Completely removing the requirement that providers must offer pregnant women “neutral, factual information and nondirective counseling” on “(A) Prenatal care and delivery; (B) Infant care, foster care, or adoption; and (C) Pregnancy termination,” as well as the instruction not to provide information on options “about which the pregnant woman indicates she does not wish to receive such information and counseling” (§59.5(a)(5)(i)). Instead, this rule would add a new section stating that “once a client served by a Title X project is medically verified as pregnant, she must be referred for appropriate prenatal and/or social services (such as prenatal care and delivery, infant care, foster care, or adoption),” making no reference to the pregnant woman’s stated desires (§59.14(b)).
  • Adding that “if a woman who is currently pregnant clearly states that she has already decided to have an abortion,” the doctor “may provide a list of licensed, qualified, comprehensive health service providers (some, but not all, of which also provide abortion, in addition to comprehensive prenatal care)…The list shall not identify the providers who perform abortion as such” (§59.14(a)).
  • Adding a new requirement that a Title X grantee is physically and financially separate from a site that violates the other provisions of this rule, i.e. a clinic that provides or refers for abortion (§59.15).

While the specific changes and impacts are complex, the topline message is clear: the domestic gag rule would erode women’s reproductive rights, undermine doctors’ free speech, and undermine the sanctity of the doctor-patient relationship. These restrictive and vague instructions would have a major chilling effect on doctors’ speech and would hamper doctors’ ability to perform their jobs. It would particularly disadvantage low-income women who rely on Title X-funded services, likely forcing them to make reproductive health decisions without access to the full range of information.

In addition to restricting information, the onerous separation requirements would likely bar organizations that provide abortion or abortion referrals with their own private money from receiving Title X grants. This change could drastically reduce access to non-abortion reproductive health care for millions of women who rely on these providers – most notably Planned Parenthood. The rule’s proponents have been clear in their intention to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding. For many low-income women, Planned Parenthood is the only local provider of affordable, essential medical care. The overly-burdensome separation requirements could prevent these women from receiving medically necessary healthcare.  

 

Take Action: 

To submit a public comment to the Department of Health and Human Services, use the form provided by the Federal Register. To do so: 

  1. Draft your comment. Below is a sample comment that you can copy and paste to submit. We also invite you to add your own views or personal story about the importance of reproductive health care and the sacred doctor-patient relationship. Why is this issue important to you?
  2. Once your comment is written, visit the form from the Federal Register.
  3. Paste your comment into the top box on the page. 
  4. Fill in the required contact information – your name, address, and state.
  5. Press the blue “Continue” button the bottom of the page. 
  6. Check to make sure that your comment and contact information are correct. Make sure to click the box at the bottom indicating that you understand that your comment will be public. 
  7. Press the “Submit Comment” button at the bottom right of the page. 
  8. Let us know that you submitted a comment by filling out this form! We want to be able to count you in the Reform Movement’s efforts to protect women's healthcare. 

Sample Comment: 

Dear Secretary Azar,  

As a concerned citizen and a Reform Jew, I write to express in the strongest terms my opposition to proposed rule RIN 0937-ZA00. By barring organizations that provide abortions or abortion referrals from receiving federal family planning funds, this rule would erode women’s reproductive rights, undermine free speech, and restrict women’s access to quality health care 

The proposed rule would eliminate the guarantee that doctors provide their patients full and accurate information. Jewish tradition teaches that a doctor is obligated to heal, and a person who prevents a physician from doing so is considered to have shed blood (Shulchan Arukh Yore De’ah 336:1). Restricting the information doctors can give their patients prevents physicians from healing to the best of their abilities. This is a sin that violates the sacred doctor-patient relationship. 

This rule would also take away non-abortion reproductive health care from the millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood and other service providers that also perform or refer for abortion. As Jews, we believe that health care is not only the right of every individual, but the responsibility of the entire community. By refusing to fund providers that serve half of the people who receive Title X funded care, this rule would prevent millions of mostly low-income women from accessing medically necessary health care services.  

I urge you to withdraw this proposed rule and allow women to receive all the health care and information they want and need.  

 

For more information on this issue, contact Eisendrath Legislative Assistant Susannah Cohen  at (202) 387-2800.