When women dress in the red cloaks and white bonnets to protest the anti-women legislation that has become a hallmark of President Trump’s presidency, some folks love to roll their eyes because they may think it's hysterical and overdramatic. But Trump’s decision to put a gag order on recipients of Title X grant money is something straight out of Margaret Atwood’s "The Handmaid’s Tale."
Title X is a federal program that guarantees equal access to health care services by providing care to low-income patients at low or no cost. Planned Parenthood and many other health care providers used to receive this money to provide services such as birth control, gynecological exams, cancer screenings and STD tests (among many other things) to their patients at a reduced rate.
However, the recent changes to the Title X regulations state that programs that receive Title X money may not provide or refer abortion services. Clinics may not even tell patients that abortion is a potential option or they risk losing their federal funding.
Some people refuse to wrap their heads around it, but abortion is a legal health care option. In some cases, it is the best health care option. Imagine being a doctor who can’t tell your cancer patient about chemotherapy, simply because someone in the government who’s never had cancer finds it distasteful and wants you to recommend essential oils instead because they smell nicer.
By refusing to let doctors provide or recommend legal, valid health care options, the government is saying it doesn’t care about women. And not only does it not care about women, but it doesn’t care about people in marginalized and lower income communities. President Trump is fully willing to sacrifice their care to make a point about how he, a man who thinks he is made with a finite amount of energy and shouldn’t exercise, doesn’t like a certain medical procedure.
Whether or not you personally agree with abortion services, they are legal. They are health care options. There should be absolutely no issue with doctors recommending or providing services that are legal, and yet this amendment to Title X seeks to police health care providers based on some warped sense of morality rather than legality.
This regulation is already hurting clinics and, by extension, the patients those clinics provide care to. Planned Parenthood and other health care providers have bowed out of the program, standing its ground on the right to provide and recommend legal procedures. Without that grant money, it will be difficult to continue to provide low-income patients with pregnancy tests, vaccine screenings and contraception at such discounted rates.
Patients who can no longer afford these services will suffer. President Trump likes to boast that he represents the best interests of the lower class. He clearly doesn’t, and he cares about women even less. Lack of access to these services will disproportionately impact those in marginalized groups. This is how it all started in "The Handmaid’s Tale": treating women and marginalized communities like second-class citizens because of religious morality.
Here in the U.S., we like to pride ourselves on freedom. Being able to do and say whatever legal things we please, solely because its our inalienable right to do so. But yet, doctors cannot do the same. If their organizations want to keep funding, they are no longer free to recommend legal and basic services to their patients.
What can you do to help keep the U.S. free and ensure that clinics are continually able to provide cheap and free health care to low income and marginalized communities? The options are endless.
You can call your senators and representatives at both the state and federal level. You can show up to their offices and demand to ask why they aren’t protecting your freedoms. You can post about this online so others are aware of this injustice. You can donate money to clinics like Planned Parenthood to help them stay operational without raising prices. And, you can march. Even wear your red cloak if you want to, because if this pattern continues, it wouldn’t be shocking to see women banned from using birth control, banned from going outside without their husbands or even speaking in the near future.
Make your voice heard now, before it’s too late.