By Carter Sherman
Vice News (6/25/19)
After a courtroom victory for the Trump administration last week, American teenagers may no longer be able to rely on a federal program that lets them access birth control and STI testing on the cheap.
Last week, a panel of judges on the Ninth Circuit ruled to let the Trump administration rewrite the rules of Title X, a $286 million federal family planning program. Under the new rules, Title X beneficiaries — the program helps about 4 million low-income people — are banned from referring patients for abortions. They must also physically and financially separate services that involve abortions from those that don’t.
But those changes, which abortion rights advocates condemn as a “gag rule,” aren’t the only ones providers must contend with. Clinicians must also now document their efforts to “encourage” minors, as the rule puts it, to tell their families about their plans to get family planning services.
Those requirements, health care providers say, are not only frustratingly vague but also threaten their ability to help adolescents through Title X.
“If I say, ‘Why aren’t you involving your parents? Why are you doing that? Why are you doing that?’ — you can imagine that sets up a pretty unhealthy relationship right out of the gate,” said Evelyn Kieltyka, a board-certified nurse and senior vice president of program services for Maine Family Planning. The organization provides treatment to about 4,400 minors every year through its $1.8 million Title X grant, which is doled out to 47 clinics throughout the state. “And they’re likely to communicate that to their cohort, and they’re less likely to come in, because they fear their confidentiality will be compromised.”
Right now, adolescents make up nearly a fifth of all Title X patients. Though providers already try to persuade them to talk to their parents, minors don’t have to let their parents know that they’re participating in the program. …
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