Office of the Vermont Attorney General

AG Donovan Requests Public Feedback On Rule Change Affecting Women’s And Reproductive Healthcare

July 18, 2018

CONTACT: Eleanor Spottswood, Assistant Attorney General, 802-828-3178

Reproductive Health Clinics Jeopardized By Proposed Federal Regulations

Attorney General T.J. Donovan today announced the launch of a website to allow Vermonters to provide feedback on a proposed rule affecting clinics that receive Title X funds. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is writing new rules for recipients of Title X funding. Title X is the only nationwide program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care. The proposed rules would implement a “gag rule” on abortion referrals and redirect funding priorities from the CDC’s birth control recommendations to “natural family planning methods.” HHS is accepting public comments on the new rules until July 31. The AG’s website where the public can provide feedback is located at: http://ago.vermont.gov/act_now_for_reproductive_health/.

“Title X clinics provide essential health care to low-income Vermonters,” Attorney General Donovan said. “It’s critical that they continue. That’s why I’ve created a website for Vermonters to tell HHS that these rules are bad for Vermont.”

Vermont has relied on funding from Title X for decades. Title X funds basic health care services, including wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, birth control, contraception education, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. As a result of the new regulations, however, Title X providers will be forced to give incomplete and misleading information to patients—a “gag rule” on providing services or information related to abortion, even to patients who affirmatively say that they want one. But the rules don’t stop there. The gag rule would also apply to any “referral partners” of Title X clinics. And, the new rules stretch Title X funding to try to cover gap in health care created by employers who opt out of providing insurance to cover contraception. The new rules also redefine “family planning” itself to promote “natural family planning methods” over more effective forms of birth control. The new rules never mention the CDC’s evidence-based best practices guidelines, “Providing Quality Family Planning Services,” which was the gold standard for health care under the old Title X regulations. In addition, the new rules require Title X clinic to be physically located in a separate facility from any abortion provider. Title X funding is not, and never has been, used for abortions.

Vermont has ten clinics supported by Title X funds, located in Barre, Bennington, Brattleboro, Hyde Park, Rutland, Middlebury, Newport, St. Albans, St. Johnsbury, and White River Junction. All provide crucial basic health care to underserved populations. Funding for each of these clinics is jeopardized by the new rules.

“It’s important that the federal government hear from people whose lives will be affected by these rule changes. And, it’s important that the federal government hear from people who support evidence-based health care,” Donovan said.

“For decades, people in Vermont have benefited from affordable reproductive health care through Title X, and new rule changes from the Trump administration threaten to take that away,” said Meagan Gallagher, CEO and President of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “We are incredibly grateful to Attorney General Donovan for his ongoing support for access to high-quality health care for all Vermonters, and for creating a new avenue for people to tell the administration they won’t stand for attacks on access to reproductive health care.” Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is the only Title X provider in Vermont.

Vermonters who are concerned about the impact of these regulations can get more information and submit comments through a website set up by the Attorney General’s Office: http://ago.vermont.gov/act_now_for_reproductive_health/

More information about the changes to Title X can be found at the independent Guttmacher Institute: https://www.guttmacher.org/article/2018/06/domestic-gag-rule-and-more-administrations-proposed-changes-title-x

Last modified: July 18, 2018