Behind closed doors on Thursday, President Donald Trump signed a bill that will effectively make it harder for women—especially low-income women and women of color—to access basic healthcare services.
The legislation, which Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to pass last month, repeals an Obama-era rule that protected the Title X program by blocking states from defunding family planning centers, including Planned Parenthood, for political reasons.
As the American Civil Liberties Union's (ACLU) Mike Garvey wrote earlier this week:
Title X providers offer vital services—such as birth control, cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted infections—to four million people, regardless of economic status. It's a publically funded safety net for those who can't simply go elsewhere. And it works because the network is diverse and includes reproductive health providers, which are often the most qualified and best-equipped to provide this care.
By law, no Title X funds can be used to provide abortion services. But, in more than a dozen states, politicians have moved to block healthcare providers who also provide abortion, like Planned Parenthood and others, from receiving Title X funds. That's discrimination, and the courts agree. Excluding qualified providers does nothing to help public health. It actually hurts access to needed care.
By rescinding the rule, Trump "has delivered a gut punch to the millions of Americans who rely on family planning providers for their basic healthcare needs," said Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, who added that this was just the latest in a string of developments showing Trump's "callous disregard for our health and rights."
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, similarly said that by signing the bill, Trump thumbed his nose at millions of Americans. According to Planned Parenthood, Title X allowed health centers to provide 800,000 Pap tests, one million breast exams, and six million tests for sexually transmitted infections—all in 2015 alone.
"Planned Parenthood strongly opposes President Trump's willingness to undermine millions of women's access to birth control through the Title X family planning program," said Laguens. "Four million people depend on the Title X family planning program, and by signing this bill, President Trump disregards their health and well-being."
Of the spotlight-loving president, NARAL Pro-Choice America national communications director Kaylie Hanson Long noted: "President Trump's decision to take this action behind closed doors shows he knows how wildly unpopular his actions are. It's a shame that despite the millions of Americans who rely on Title X for protection, President Trump is going to extraordinary lengths to control women and our reproductive freedom. If you have to hide what you're doing, then you probably shouldn't be doing it in the first place. Women and families deserve better."