LETTER: Title X gag rule will hurt West Virginians (Opinion)

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Editor:

The Title X gag rule is an affront to the social welfare, economic stability and public health of West Virginia. The rule would prevent doctors in the Title X program across the country from telling women how they can safely and legally access abortion. This would make it impossible for places like Planned Parenthood to participate in the program, further limiting reproductive health options for women in our state.

Recently, I had the privilege of moderating a roundtable of female leaders, health practitioners and advocates from across the state. These leaders have an intimate understanding of what is at stake with the gag rule. These were the most important takeaways:

West Virginia relies on Title X: The number of West Virginians dependent on Title X for health care is staggering — nearly 70,000 people relied on Title X providers for birth control and cancer screenings in 2017 alone.

Lower-income people would be disproportionately affected: The majority of these patients are lower-income, rural, under-insured and have already limited access to these services in their communities. Given the high utilization of Title X in West Virginia and its high poverty rate, the gag rule would further limit health care options.

Public health is at risk: Title X is a critical access point for those who are suffering from substance use disorders. Title X sites are uniquely positioned to link people to behavioral health treatment and recovery supports when they are diagnosed with substance use disorders, especially in rural areas where the crisis is severe.

There is overwhelming bipartisan support for Title X, a decades-old federal program that serves over 4 million a year. The gag rule is a blatant attack against Planned Parenthood and West Virginians. Ultimately, all it will accomplish is to increase the roadblocks to health care for Mountain State residents.

Lindsay Allen

WVU School of Public Health

Morgantown

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