Latinas who provide reproductive services in areas with few options for low-income women and women of color are grappling with a new Trump administration rule that can limit clinics' access to federal funding, making it harder to offer affordable care to women.
At issue is the “domestic gag rule” that went into effect at the end of August, stating that health clinics can’t receive specific federal funding — known as Title X — designated for family planning and other reproductive health services if abortions are performed at the facility or if specialists refer patients to centers where they can get abortions.
Clinics are now facing a choice: halt family planning consultations or services that include abortion as a viable option and keep receiving Title X funds; or, like Planned Parenthood, withdraw from the federal family planning program and continue to offer full services at their facilities while looking for alternate sources of funding such as donations or private grants.
For centers such as Planned Parenthood, losing Title X money can mean that “clinics will become more expensive and women will face longer waits for appointments,” Estefany Londoño, a Masters student at the University of Central Florida and a longtime reproductive justice advocate, told NBC News.
This would defeat the purpose of Title X, which was created to help low-income women.
Many clinics in this zone are “swamped” and struggle to meet the needs of the women living in the area, said Ceballos Félix, adding that women normally have to wait a year to get an appointment for a pap smear.
The Department of Health and Human Services argues the new restrictions should not be considered a “gag rule” because it doesn’t prohibit health care providers from counseling patients on abortion.
But the rule explicitly states that if a Title X funded center “encourages, promotes, advocates, supports, or assists with, abortion” the clinic would be considered one ‘‘where abortion is a method of family planning" — therefore ineligible for federal family planning funds.
Some critics of the changes say they would trigger the diversion of $286 million assigned for federal family planning efforts away from organizations such as Planned Parenthood and toward faith-based providers, which are not necessarily required to provide medically accurate services.
“The domestic gag rule is tragic, and its collateral damage would take years to fix,” Ginny Ehrlich, chief executive at Power to Decide, told NBC News. “No one benefits when women can’t get information in order to get pregnant on their own terms. Families thrive when women are able to plan their families.”
As clinics continue to grapple with the new rule, reproductive health care organizations are coming up with other resources to try to ensure women's access to services.
Through the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Ceballos Félix recently helped 25 to 30 women get “coupons” to afford pap tests and cancer screening tests to detect breast and cervical cancer.
“If I didn’t had access to this care, I don’t know if I’d be able to access education,” Londoño, the Masters student, said. “That’s why we have birth control. It allows women to participate in society they way they want.”