Trump’s Title X Domestic Gag Rule Blocked in the Nick of Time
On March 4, the Trump administration introduced a terrible new rule on Title X funding, which was set to go into effect on May 3. Fortunately, that rule was blocked by a preliminary injunction on April 25, before it had a chance to cause any harm to patients. Judge Stanley A. Bastian of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington issued a nationwide stay, which will surely be challenged by the Trump administration.
Title X is the United States’ family planning program for low-income individuals. It serves over 4 million Americans each year at nearly 4,000 clinics—Planned Parenthood clinics comprise 41% of those 4,000 clinics.
The new funding guidelines would have prevented grants to clinics that provide abortions or refer patients to other clinics for abortion services. They would have prioritized primary health clinics over reproductive health clinics (even though the grants are supposed to be specifically for family planning services). They also would have favored clinics that only provide natural family planning (e.g. fertility awareness) over those that provide a mix of modern contraceptive methods.
Many parties have sued the Trump administration over the new rule, including 20 states’ attorneys general.
Massachusetts Protects Title X Patients
In an effort to reduce the impact of Trump’s proposed Domestic Gag Rule, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed a bill ensuring that Title X patients in his state would still receive subsidized reproductive health care, approving $8 million in state funding to offset the potential loss of federal funding.
A truly bipartisan bill, H.3638 passed in the House 140–14, and in the Senate 33–5. Gov. Baker, a Republican, signed it the day after it was presented to him.
Obria Group Leaches Funding From Worthy Providers
As part of Trump’s funding changes to Title X, HHS has already begun—before the new guidelines were even allowed to go into effect—directing grants to faith-based nonprofits that do not provide modern, effective family planning.
The Obria Group, a nonprofit affiliate network in California that claims to exist “for the lives of unborn babies and the soul of the mothers and fathers,” has been awarded a three-year $5.1-million grant. Obria will distribute the grant to 21 clinics across southern California.
After having an abortion in 1980, Obria’s founder, Kathleen Eaton Bravo, founded three crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) in 1986. In January 2017 (don’t forget what else happened that month), she turned her growing collection of CPCs into The Obria Group, with the goal of attracting 200 member CPCs nationwide by 2020.
In its own Title X grant award announcement, Obria wrote, “Obria clinics do not provide contraceptives and do not do abortions, offering women and their families healthy, life-affirming care.” Instead, they encourage less effective natural family planning (i.e. fertility awareness and periodic abstinence)—methods that lead to higher rates of unintended pregnancy.
Major contributors to Obria, in addition to U.S. taxpayers, include the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Roman Catholic Bishop of Orange.
Pompeo Expands Already-Awful Global Gag Rule
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced new restrictions on international aid in March. The Global Gag Rule already prohibits U.S. funding of any global health organization that performs abortions, refers patients to other providers for abortions, or advocates for more liberal abortion laws in its own country—with its own money.
Under the new guidelines, foreign NGOs that comply with the Global Gag Rule and receive U.S. global health assistance may not financially assist other NGOs that do not comply with the Gag Rule, even if the financial assistance is for activities that have nothing to do with family planning or abortion. The specifics of the Pompeo expansion are still unclear, but what is clear is how far this administration will go to hamstring the effectiveness of U.S. global health aid in an effort to appease its base.
Genes May Contribute to Birth Control Pill Failure
A new study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology found that some women metabolize the hormones in contraceptive pills (estrogen and progesterone)more quickly than other women do, putting them at risk of unintended pregnancy even if they’re taking the pill perfectly.
The study looked at 350 women using the contraceptive implant—which contains the same hormones that are active in the pill—in order to eliminate user error, which could compromise the study.
The researchers found that more than one in four women with the CYP3A7*1C protein were not retaining enough of the active ingredients in hormonal contraception to inhibit ovulation, leaving them vulnerable to unintended pregnancy.
Unisex Non-Hormonal Contraceptive Being Developed in Berkeley
YourChoice Therapeutics, a UC Berkeley startup, is developing a hormone-free unisex contraceptive, projected to be available in eight to 10 years.
The contraceptive inhibits the motility of sperm, and prevents those sperm that do reach an egg from being able to drill into it. The drug would be taken orally by men. In women, the drug would be inserted into the vagina, with an oral version to be released later.
Several States Pass New Abortion Restrictions
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a law outlawing abortion as early as six weeks—just two weeks after a missed period (in a person with a regular, predictable cycle) and before many people even know they’re pregnant. The law is written to ban the procedure once a transvaginal ultrasound can detect a “heartbeat.”
Georgia legislators passed a similar bill, HB 481, in March, after a huge public outcry and protests from civic and business leaders across the state and country. Gov. Brian Kemp has said he will sign it, and has until May 12 to do so.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed an 18-week abortion ban (HB 1439) into law on March 15. The bill defines a human being as “an individual member of the species Homo sapiens from and after the point of conception,” which the bill says occurs upon “the fusion of human spermatozoon with a human ovum.” Exceptions exist for victims of rape or incest, and for those experiencing a life-threatening medical emergency. Doctors who perform abortions after 18 weeks of pregnancy outside of these exceptions will face being prosecuted for a felony, losing their medical licenses, and owing a fine of up to $2,000.
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert signed a bill (HB 136) into law on March 25 that bans abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy. The particulars of the bill are similar to those of the Arkansas 18-week abortion ban, described above.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a “trigger ban” (SB 149) on February 19, which would outlaw abortion, wholesale, in Arkansas if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
Georgia “Testicular Bill of Rights” Satirizes Regressive Abortion Policy
In response to HB 481, Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick emailed her colleagues in the Georgia Legislature asking them to join her in supporting her “Testicular Bill of Rights.” The legislation would ban vasectomy, require men to obtain permission from their partners before receiving Viagra, classify sex without a condom as aggravated assault, and mandate DNA testing of fetuses at six weeks and one day gestation, at which point the father would be required to start paying child support.
These news clips were current as of May 1, our print deadline. For the latest news on these and other items, please visit popconnect.org/population-news/.