Barbara A. Favola, a Democrat, represents Arlington in the Virginia Senate, where she is chair of the Women’s Healthcare Caucus.
As a firm believer in equality, when the Virginia Legislature reconvenes in a few months, I will work to increase state funding for family planning services, including expanding the availability of birth control for low-income Virginians, and require insurance companies to cover contraceptives without a co-pay.
And it’s important that Virginia does so, because the federal government is working hard to suppress equality for women.
Ensuring women’s equality in our society promotes and grows our economy, increases the vibrancy of our communities, creates and sustains stable families, and more fully realizes the promises of freedom that our nation values. Women are a vital part of our national workforce. We make up 43 percent of full-time workers and 64 percent of part-time workers. Women are the primary wage-earners in 40 percent of U.S. households.
The 2016 Republican Platform declared that the greatest asset of the U.S. economy is the hard-working American. The platform also promised hope to those who are now on the margins of prosperity and affirmed a moral obligation to assist, rather than penalize, women who face an unplanned pregnancy. Yet, the Trump administration’s application of the Gag Rule to Title X funding breaks this promise.
Title X was created in 1970 to provide birth control services to low-income individuals and has never allowed funding for abortion care. Title X patients are overwhelmingly young, female and low-income. Eighty-nine percent of Title X patients in 2016 were women. Two-thirds of Title X patients were younger than 30, and nearly two-thirds had incomes at or below the federal poverty level. The Trump administration’s new rules will allow limitations on the range of offered contraceptives, such as the IUD, and restrict how medical providers under the program can speak with patients who have a positive pregnancy test. A gag rule has no place in the delivery of health care.
This paternalistic rule limits the information that could be available to patients for no medically necessary reason. In effect, politicians are practicing medicine on low-income women. The gag rule erodes equity and opportunity for those women and families affected by it and creates a financial hardship that may never be overcome. This policy undermines the ability of parents to adequately provide for their families. If we want healthier, safer and more stable communities, we need to empower individuals to wait until they are ready to accept the responsibilities of parenthood rather than passing judgments on such personal decisions as what contraceptive method a woman may choose. The consequences of unplanned families and the resulting demands on safety-net programs are routinely ignored, especially by those who consider themselves to be anti-government champions. That this anti-government view does not prevail in a woman’s personal medical decisions is telling. There are no such gag rules governing any aspect of health care delivered to men.