ACP: Title X Changes Interfere With Physician-Patient Relationship

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The College has signed onto amicus briefs and joined a coalition with other medical organizations opposing the new policy

Sept. 20, 2019 (ACP) – The American College of Physicians continues to voice opposition to the announced changes to the Title X family planning program, which provides underserved populations with health care services such as family planning and cancer screenings.

The Trump administration has approved a policy that denies funding to clinics unless they agree to restrictions on the services they provide and the guidance that clinicians can offer to patients. When the policy was first proposed, state officials and reproductive rights groups challenged the changes in court. However, the Associated Press reported in July that a nationwide preliminary injunction that had blocked the rule was set aside to allow the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to enforce the new rules.

“Our members have a variety of viewpoints about women's reproductive health, and we respect them. But it's clear that conversations between patients and medical professionals must be private, and mandating what can be said is unethical and inappropriate,” said Shari Erickson, ACP's vice president for governmental affairs and medical practice.

Planned Parenthood announced in August that it will no longer apply for Title X grants as a result of the new policy. “ACP recognizes the appropriateness of Planned Parenthood's decision to withdraw from the Title X program rather than accept a government gag rule on physicians that would dictate the medical advice and referrals they can provide their patients,” said Dr. Robert McLean, ACP's president. “This loss of federal funding could force some clinics to curtail the services they can provide and the number of patients they can see, or even close, if the funding shortfall is not made up from other sources or restored by the federal government without unacceptable conditions.”

Earlier this year, ACP signed onto amicus briefs with other medical organizations to warn that changes to Title X would risk access to care and put facilities in the difficult position of closing or limiting their operations unless they agree to the new policy. The briefs urge courts to acknowledge that the Title X changes would limit patients' access to health care services and interfere with the patient-physician relationship by restricting the medical advice that physicians can give to patients.

ACP is also part of a coalition of hundreds of thousands of physicians and medical students who oppose the new policy. Other members of the coalition are the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Nurse-Midwives, Association for Physician Assistants in Obstetrics and Gynecology, National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health, and Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine.

“When politics are injected into our health care system, access to care and preventive health services, especially for women, are jeopardized,” McLean said. “ACP remains committed to doing everything it can to ensure all Americans, including women, have access to affordable, quality health care.”

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