Inaction on fake women’s health clinics compounded by Trump rule
Late last week, a federal appeals court said the Trump Administration’s Title X family planning rule can take effect. While largely targeting Planned Parenthood, Trump’s rule also favors Crisis Pregnancy Centers (CPCs). The Connecticut General Assembly had an opportunity to protect Connecticut women from the misleading practices of these fake women’s health clinics, but the Senate failed to vote on the bill during the final weeks of the 2019 legislative session.
Now, CPCs, known to deceive women into believing they’re visiting a legitimate health clinic, are positioned to receive federal funding.
After seeing the bill die in Committee in 2018, advocates worked with lawmakers to introduce HB 7070, An Act Concerning Deceptive Advertising Practices of Limited Service Pregnancy Centers, during the 2019 legislative session. HB 7070 would prohibit fake women’s health clinics from making or disseminating deceptive statements about any pregnancy-related services.
It is well-documented that some fake clinics in Connecticut present themselves as comprehensive reproductive health providers to prospective patients and then, once patients are brought inside, they lie, shame or pressure them into making reproductive healthcare decisions. If a CPC doesn’t employ deceptive tactics, the bill doesn’t apply to them.
HB 7070 was voted out of the House of Representatives on May 16, nearly three weeks before the close of the 2019 legislative session on June 5. Why the Senate didn’t vote on this important bill is still unclear. Their failure to take action means Connecticut women are still not protected from deceptive practices and now face a potential influx of Title X funding to support these fake women’s health clinics.
The only thing more absurd than allowing a religious organization to deceive women in order to prevent them from accessing healthcare is funding them to do so.
CPCs are a strategy of the anti-choice movement, strategically located near abortion providers and in low-income communities. There are 25 CPCs in Connecticut, including a mobile van that travels the state. Some position themselves in areas where there are not many health care providers, effectively targeting already medically under-served populations including young people, people of color, and people with low incomes. If these fake health clinics start receiving federal funding, they might be the only provider a Connecticut resident will access, and they don’t even provide healthcare.
The Trump Administration’s Title X rule encourages groups to apply for federal dollars who offer “a holistic vision of health and those historically underrepresented in the Title X program.” Providers that offer a single method of family planning, like the kind of natural family planning offered by religious providers, are also encouraged to apply.
Title X has funded health clinics for more than 40 years to provide a broad range of family planning and preventative health services for millions of low-income or uninsured individuals. Planned Parenthood operates about 40 percent of the 4,000 Title X clinics in the country. Millions of women and men nationwide rely on Planned Parenthood for Title X funded services such as cancer screenings, HIV tests and birth control.
The Trump Administration is prioritizing religious ideology over healthcare and threatening the lives of women and the integrity of the Title X program.
Trump’s rule goes far beyond the current provision that prohibits Title X dollars from being used on abortion. The new rule prohibits any health clinic that offers abortion or makes referrals for abortion from participating in the program. Under Trump’s rule, Planned Parenthood is going to be stripped of Title X funding and that funding is going to be diverted to CPCs that don’t even provide healthcare.
With everything we know about these centers, including testimonials from women who were deceived at fake health clinics in Connecticut, the debate at the Connecticut General Assembly often focused on why CPCs were being treated unfairly. Those on the other side of this issue questioned why Planned Parenthood wasn’t being held to the same scrutiny. It’s as if they buried their head in the sand or somehow missed the national anti-choice campaigns against Planned Parenthood.
During a time in our country’s history when women’s health is under attack by the Trump Administration and many in the Republican party, it is essential for a state like Connecticut to enact policies that will protect women’s health and safety. We failed.
The leading opposition to HB 7070 is the Family Institute of Connecticut, an anti-abortion, anti-gay, Judeo-Christian activist organization. They have claimed victory, and I can’t blame them. If we are to be called back for a summer special session, Connecticut lawmakers should pass a common sense policy to prohibit fake health clinics from being able to lie to women.
The only thing more absurd than allowing a religious organization to deceive women in order to prevent them from accessing healthcare is funding them to do so. Connecticut lawmakers have to do better by the women of our state and this nation.
State Rep. Jillian Gilchrest, a Democrat, serves the 18th District in West Hartford.
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