Should Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) or Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) be elected president in 2020, they both commit to undoing the Trump administration’s new rule barring clinics from receiving federal funds if they provide abortions or even refer patients, their campaigns told ThinkProgress on Thursday.
“Senator Gillibrand is committed to standing up to President Trump’s attacks on reproductive health care and will undo the Administration’s domestic gag rule on day one,” said Rachel Irwin, the Iowa communications director for Gillibrand, by email.
The Warren campaign also told ThinkProgress that she would undo Trump’s gag rule on her first day in office.
Gillibrand and Warren join Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), who was the first 2020 Democratic candidate to make this pledge on Monday.
The domestic gag rule is a direct assault on women’s health and I will begin the process of undoing it on my first day as President. No doctor should be silenced or intimidated from telling their patients about their health care options.
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) March 4, 2019
The Trump administration has taken many actions against abortion, most recently dropping the so-called domestic gag rule. The rule, which would take effect in May pending ongoing lawsuits, aims to defund Planned Parenthood, threatens hundreds of other family planning providers, and puts over 400,000 low-income women and gender minorities at risk.
The rule would bar abortion providers like Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X dollars and prevent them from even mentioning abortion during pregnancy counseling. The change would dramatically alter the country’s only federal family planning program dedicated to providing access to services like birth control and cancer screenings, affecting thousands of women and gender minorities who are low-income, uninsured, and disproportionately black and brown. Currently, no federal dollars pay for abortions.
The best chance abortion advocates have at delaying the rule’s effects is in the federal courts. So far, there are at least six lawsuits challenging the administration’s changes to the Title X program. Most recently, on Wednesday, the Center for Reproductive Rights sued the administration on behalf of Maine family planning providers.
But it’s hard to imagine the Supreme Court ultimately striking down the gag rule, as less conservative justices upheld similar Reagan-era rules in 1991. The best way to permanently abolish Trump’s gag rule is for a Democrat to take back the White House in 2020 and rescind the rule, Florida State University law professor Mary Ziegler recently told ThinkProgress. This was the case with the Reagan-era rules; the rules were never fully implemented due to ongoing litigation, and President Bill Clinton (D) eventually just rescinded the rules by presidential memorandum when he took office.
South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s campaign also told ThinkProgress he would undo the gag rule if elected president.
“He opposes the gag rule and would prioritize undoing it,” said Lis Smith, Buttigieg’s communications adviser.
The Cory Booker, Bernie Sanders, Julián Castro, and Amy Klobuchar campaigns did not respond by the time of publication.
Over the last two weeks, advocates have been underscoring how the anti-abortion movement is the only one applauding the administration’s changes to the rule. Crisis pregnancy centers, who have a history of misleading patients, stand to benefit if Planned Parenthood isn’t allowed to participate in the grant program. Health providers oppose the rule, and the American Medical Association (AMA), the nation’s largest physician group, is even suing to block the changes.
On Thursday, Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) also criticized the new rule on the Senate floor.
“Republicans here in the Capitol may have no idea what it would mean for patients to lose access to the providers they trust and the affordable care they need,” said Murray. “But that’s not because those patients—and their doctors and communities—weren’t speaking up.”
In a memo sent to Senate Democrats on Thursday, Murray highlighted some of the over 500,000 comments posted on the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website during the rule’s public comment period.
“And without insurance [P]lanned Parenthood was the only affordable option available,” commented one young student who said she was attending college on the opposite side of the country from her family. “Do not further damage the ability of women to seek and receive medical services from Planned Parenthood.”
“By leaving out some of those options, I would be denying this right to my patients and frankly I would be lying to them,” wrote a physician in a Title X-funded clinic. “I took an oath that says, First, do no harm. I believe that not telling my patients about the option of abortion, and not giving them clear information when requested, may be directly detrimental and harmful to them.”