WASHINGTON — Senators Cardin and Van Hollen and Representatives Cummings, Hoyer, Sarbanes, Delaney, Brown, Raskin and Ruppersberger, all Members of the Maryland Congressional Delegation, have sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Office of Management and Budget Administrator Neomi Rao, requesting an extension for the public comment period for the proposed Title X gag rule.
“We are writing to request that you extend the public comment period for the gag rule proposed by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for the Title X National Family Planning Program,” the Members wrote. “Stakeholders across the country, including in Maryland, have experienced difficulty in submitting electronic comments and have requested this extension to give them adequate time to analyze the proposed rule’s impact on women’s access to health care and provide meaningful comments to the Department.”
The Title X National Family Planning Program was created in 1970 to provide low-income individuals with information and resources to help them make informed decisions about their health. On June 1, 2018, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) proposed a rule to severely restrict health care providers receiving Title X funds from informing women of the full range of health care options available to them and helping them access these services. The notice of proposed rulemaking provided a public comment period of just 60 days, which will end on July 31, 2018. This proposed rule would make a significant change to a program through which more than 4 million Americans received critical health care services, such as breast cancer screenings and HIV testing, in 2016.
In Maryland, 75 Title X service sites serve more than 70,000 individuals, including more than 16,000 individuals in Baltimore City alone.
“It is essential that these patients, their health care providers, and other stakeholders have an opportunity to provide insightful, data-driven comments on the proposed gag rule—particularly given the detrimental effect it would have on women’s access to quality, comprehensive health care,” the Members wrote. “HHS’s proposed gag rule would upend the doctor-patient relationship for the millions of women who rely on Title X programs, leaving these women with fewer places to turn for honest advice and affordable family planning services and related preventive health care. The rule would prohibit doctors from discussing the full range of reproductive health care options with their patients or referring women to other qualified health care providers for abortion services.”
“For these reasons, we respectfully request that you extend the public comment period for the proposed gag rule to October 1, 2018,” the Members asked. “We urge you to afford stakeholders the opportunity to provide HHS with the detailed, data-driven comments to guide the Administration as it develops policies that will affect millions of Americans.”
Click here to read the full letter.