Opinion The Counter Opinion: How a federal “gag rule” will impact reproductive healthcare By The New Political Posted on September 15, 2019 11 min read 0 0 449 Graphic by Maggie Prosser This year, President Donald Trump’s administration passed a “gag rule” to the Title X family planning program, which is a program that provides reproductive healthcare services to those in need. One provision of this rule prohibits healthcare providers who receive funding from referring patients to reproductive care and abortion services. Because of this, two Planned Parenthood locations in Ohio were forced to close. We asked our opinion writers to discuss the suspected effects this will have on the community and what should be done to resolve the issues. Contributing are Katie Nolan, a junior environmental studies major, Zach Richards, a sophomore education major and Charlotte Caldwell, a sophomore journalism major. Is it unethical for doctors to withhold information from their patients, even though it is required by law? Zach: There was a time when women were thought to be too faint of heart to hear medical diagnoses themselves. It used to be that doctors would tell their husbands or fathers the diagnosis, and it was up to them to decide whether or not to actually tell their wives or daughters. Even if it was legal back then, that system was wrong, and any system where doctors have to withhold information from their patients is wrong. Doctors must, however, still follow the law, so in this case, it would be ethical for them to withhold information, but the law itself would be unethical. Katie: It is completely unethical for doctors to withhold information from their patients, and it is unfortunate that they are required by law to do so in these cases. It is important for those who require reproductive care to be fully cared for by their doctors. It is hard enough as it is to be in dire need of reproductive care when also in need financially, but roadblocks like the “gag rule” further complicate access for no legitimate reason. Charlotte: Unfortunately for the doctors that are affected by this, they are being forced to be unethical because of the government’s crusade to stop abortions and any contraceptive that they consider to be an “abortion.” If some healthcare providers were to push back and tell their patients about their abortion options, many would ultimately go out of business because federal funding is the only thing keeping them afloat. The government could still take preventative measures on some abortions, but the way they are going about it currently is an embarrassment. Do you think this rule will increase or decrease unexpected pregnancies? Zach: I think this will marginally increase the number of unexpected pregnancies. A lot of people do rely on Planned Parenthood for contraceptives, and any action that causes Planned Parenthoods to close will inherently make it harder to get contraceptives. However, there are some contraceptives, such as condoms, that are relatively easy to get if people absolutely need them. While it’s simple logic that making it harder to obtain contraceptives will almost certainly make unexpected pregnancies go up, it seems unclear how much of an effect this will actually have. Katie: Decreasing access to birth control, contraceptives and reproductive healthcare do not decrease the need for them. This “gag rule” denies those that are most in need of reproductive assistance, which causes greater disparity. Additionally, so many people rely on places like Planned Parenthood, not only for abortion and birth control but for general healthcare and life-saving services. Restricting people’s access to Planned Parenthood denies people the right to basic healthcare. Charlotte: Considering this regulation makes it impossible for patients to get birth control or preventative care from places like Planned Parenthood, pregnancies will increase and the government will wonder why their master plan to ban abortions doesn’t work out as they had planned. Contraceptives are not abortions, and the government lumping them into the topic of abortions is only creating a bigger problem. What should be done to resolve these issues? Zach: There’s not much one side of the abortion debate can do to convince the other. It all boils down to how much value that someone thinks the life of a fetus holds, and if there’s already the assumption that a fetus is a human being, then any form of abortion will seem tantamount to legalized murder. At the same time, there are legitimate maternal health issues being invoked on the pro-choice side. However, the American public, even Republicans, tend to be OK with abortion providers providing contraceptives to people who need them. On this issue at least, it seems possible that there could be a grand compromise between the parties to fund Planned Parenthood and other healthcare providers if they can focus those federal funds on providing contraceptives. That might be the best way to prevent abortions in the first place. Katie: The Trump administration’s restrictions on reproductive rights have been brutal. Similarly, Ohio’s “Heartbeat Bill” restricts reproductive rights to a harsh degree. Under this law, abortions would be banned after six weeks of pregnancy. In many cases, people may not know that they are pregnant until after they have passed this threshold, giving them no right to an abortion in the state of Ohio. Other states have proposed similar bills. The next step is to protest these bans on reproductive healthcare options. It is important to vote for issues and candidates that support a person’s right to choose. Charlotte: First, the government needs to separate its regulations on abortions from contraceptives. Without ample access to contraceptives for everyone, the number of unplanned pregnancies will only increase, ultimately increasing the abortion rate. Admittedly, I have taken a pro-life stance on a few abortion topics in the past, most notably the “Heartbeat Bill.” While I still agree that a fetus has a right to a future, I believe that the government needs to get the facts straight before they begin to ban everything that Planned Parenthood centers do for communities and force them to shut down. Please note that these views and opinions do not reflect those of The New Political.