Maryland officials won't keep quiet about gag rule potentially limiting women's health access

Posted at 12:22 PM, Jul 30, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-30 12:22:21-04

Democratic state officials are asking to expand the public comment period for a proposed rule that could affect low-income women and their health. 

On Friday, multiple Senators, Congressmen, and members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation came together to write a letter requesting an extension for the public comment period for the proposed Title X gag rule.  

“We are writing to request that you extend the public comment period for the gag rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the Title X National Family Planning Program,” the Members wrote. “Stakeholders across the country, including in Maryland, have experienced difficulty in submitting electronic comments and have requested this extension to give them adequate time to analyze the proposed rule’s impact on women’s access to health care and provide meaningful comments to the Department.”

The Title X National Family Planning Program was created in 1970 to help low-income families get information and resources they need to make informed decisions about their health. On June 1, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed restricting the funds that go to providers helping the low-income families.

RELATED: Proposed Title X changes could affect health services funding in Baltimore, city delegation warns

This could potentially restrict women from getting the full range of health care options available to them and helping them access those services. 

When the new rule was proposed, officials gave a public comment period of 60 days, which is supposed to expire on July 31. Lawmakers are arguing now that since they have had technical problems, an extension should be granted so they can make a more informed decision. 

“It is essential that these patients, their health care providers, and other stakeholders have an opportunity to provide insightful, data-driven comments on the proposed gag rule—particularly given the detrimental effect it would have on women’s access to quality, comprehensive health care,” the Members wrote. “HHS’s proposed gag rule would upend the doctor-patient relationship for the millions of women who rely on Title X programs, leaving these women with fewer places to turn for honest advice and affordable family planning services and related preventive health care.  The rule would prohibit doctors from discussing the full range of reproductive health care options with their patients or referring women to other qualified health care providers for abortion services.” 

In Maryland, there are 75 Title X service sites that serve more than 700,000 people, including 16,000 in Baltimore City alone. 

“For these reasons, we respectfully request that you extend the public comment period for the proposed gag rule to October 1, 2018,” the Members asked. “We urge you to afford stakeholders the opportunity to provide HHS with the detailed, data-driven comments to guide the Administration as it develops policies that will affect millions of Americans.”