Protecting Family Planning

July 31, 2018

Dear Friends,

Today I submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), strongly opposing Federal rule changes that will limit women's access to comprehensive family planning.

I urge you to do the same. You have until 11:59PM tonight, Tues. July 31 to submit comments.

Before Trump's gag rule can be passed, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is required by law to receive public comments on it. Please help fight this cruel attack on women's health care! You can express your opposition to Trump's gag rule by submitting a public comment on the HHS website here. (This hyperlink may not work with certain browsers; you can find it at

https://www.regulations.go/comment?D=HHS_FRDOC_0001-0689,)

In May, the Trump administration proposed a change to Title X, the only federal program dedicated to providing women with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services. Trump's "gag rule" would explicitly bar health care providers who get federal funding through Title X from referring patients to abortion providers. Only a pregnant woman who has already affirmatively voiced her decision to get an abortion - as distinguished from a patient seeking information as she weighs a decision about an unintended pregnancy - could be informed about medical providers performing abortions.

Trump's proposed rule is an attempt to deny women their basic rights, and will severely limit access to a wide range of vital health care services for millions of Americans, including over 300,000 New Yorkers and 4,000 Title X-funded health care providers around the country, including community health centers, hospital-based clinics, and health departments.

I've sent the letter below, opposing this dangerous proposal, to HHS leadership. Please feel free to contact my office if you have any questions.

Very truly yours,
Richard N. Gottfried
Chair, NYS Assembly Committee on Health


July 31, 2018

Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services
Diane Foley, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Population Affairs
Valerie Huber, Senior Policy Advisor, Assistant Secretary for Health
Attention: Family Planning
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Hubert H. Humphrey Building, Room 716G
200 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20201

VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION

Re: HHS-OS-2018-0008, Proposed Rule for Compliance with Statutory Program Integrity Requirements

Dear Mr. Azar, Ms. Huber, and Ms. Foley:

As Chair of the New York State Assembly Committee on Health, I am writing to oppose the Department of Health and Human Services' proposed rule entitled Compliance With Statutory Program Integrity Requirements, published in the Federal Register on June 1, 2018. If implemented, this proposal will severely limit access to a wide range of vital health care services for millions of Americans, including over 300,000 New Yorkers.

Health care clinics that rely on Title X funding are a critical safety net for the uninsured and low- and moderate-income working people. Patients and providers rely on Title X to ensure access not only to reproductive and family planning care, but also to primary care services, including annual checkups, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing. Has the Department evaluated the impact of this proposal on the provision of such services?

Providers have a duty to put their patients' needs first, but this proposal would cut off federal funding to clinics that have followed clinical and medical ethics guidelines, as well as federal and state law, for decades. Patients have a right to receive complete and unbiased information about their health care, including all family planning and pregnancy options. The Department's assumption that women are incapable of making the best decisions for themselves when presented with comprehensive, nondirective, and medically accurate information is insulting, wrong and dangerous. Barring access to this information is unethical and will disproportionately harm low- and moderate-income working women and women of color.

Additionally, the draconian requirements imposed on providers and clinics in this proposal will force many clinics to close altogether, leaving thousands of patients without care. Federally qualified health centers and other clinics simply do not have the capacity to absorb this volume of patients. Does the Department have a plan to increase provider and clinic capacity?

Unintended and teen pregnancies have dramatically declined in recent decades, in large part because of the increased access to evidence-based care and contraception that Title X funding has made possible. This proposal's restrictions on providers and removal of clinical standards from the Title X program would reverse decades of progress in women's health outcomes in the United States.

Cutting off funding to providers who put patients' needs first is a dangerous proposal, and I strongly oppose it.

Very truly yours,
Richard N. Gottfried
Chair, Assembly Committee on Health