Trump Abortion Gag Rule Is a 'Ferocious Attack' on Women's Rights, Experts Warn

The Trump administration's gag rule on abortion counselling and provision is a "ferocious attack" on women's rights, experts warned in The BMJ on Wednesday.

The proposed rule, if it comes into effect, will mean that any clinics or programs which receive federal family planning funds will not be allowed to provide abortions, refer women to places that do or even offer advice saying that abortion is an option, according to the authors from the University of Michigan. This will unfairly affect women, they argue in an opinion piece.

"It is well documented that when this law is in effect there are more unplanned pregnancies, more unsafe abortions, and more maternal deaths," the report said.

This echoes the views of the U.S. medical community, with eight medical associations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American College of Physicians all issuing joint statement condemning the rule.

"We can expect increased rates of unplanned pregnancy, pregnancy complications, and undiagnosed medical conditions," their joint statement reads.

Currently, federal family planning funds go towards services like contraception, cancer screening and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases, and are accessed by more than 4 million Americans every year.

The authors go on to highlight a 2017 Gallup poll which indicates that only 18% of Americans think that abortion should be illegal in all, or most circumstances. This suggests that the majority of the public support women's rights to safe legal abortion.

"The proposed rule imposes the conservative religious beliefs of a minority on the entire American population, directly contradicting the fundamental rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion on which our nation was founded," the authors wrote.

"The U.S. is a plural and pluralistic society. Personal objections to contraception and abortion are allowed. It is not acceptable, however, to enforce those beliefs on an entire secular society. That amounts to religious discrimination."

In addition to violating constitutional protections of speech and religious freedom, the gag rule also represents a gross interference in the relationship between patients and physicians. The authors argue that dictating what doctors can and can't say to their patients damages the integrity of the relationship.

"No government policy should stop healthcare providers from giving their patients comprehensive, medically accurate information," they wrote.

Lastly, they note that it is unclear whether the rule is actually legal because federal family planning funding legislation requires the government to support "a broad range of acceptable and effective family planning services."

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Currently, federal family planning funds go towards services like contraception, cancer screening and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases, which are accessed by more than 4 million Americans every year. iStock

The authors conclude by saying that the result of the proposed rule is that people will miss out on the healthcare they need.

"They won't get birth control, cancer screenings, sexually transmitted disease testing and treatment, or even general women's health exams," they wrote.

"Everyone, regardless of their race, income, or where they live, deserves the best medical care and information available. Under this rule, they won't get it. This partisan policy is not based in medical fact or established law and will lead to poorer quality healthcare and less access to healthcare. This is an attempt to take away women's basic rights. Period."

Trump Abortion Gag Rule Is a 'Ferocious Attack' on Women's Rights, Experts Warn | Tech & Science
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