The Domestic Gag Rule: What is it? Why is it terrible for abortion access?

Over the decades since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion in the United States, the anti-abortion movement has developed a strategy of creating a web of different laws, regulations, and policies designed to make abortion less and less accessible. These laws and policies create a seemingly never-ending (until a new policy is passed and a new barrier is discovered) set of hurdles and barriers designed to make accessing abortion confusing and in some cases impossible. It's important to understand this context when discussing various new barriers -- the whole idea of this strategy is that when people see them one by one they will think, "Well that's not so bad -- it's not like they've overturned Roe v. Wade!" 

But honestly with this web in place, for many people in our community, Roe might as well not even exist. 

So into this web comes the Domestic Gag Rule. Actually, returning to this web is the Domestic Gag Rule. It was first implemented by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. Since that time it's been rescinded and reinstated by different administrations. Under the Domestic Gag Rule, family planning providers that receive federal funds could have their funding revoked for even informing patients where they can access abortion. For folks in places like the Texas Panhandle, where a Title X federally funded family planning clinic or a federally qualified health center may be the only places where a person can get accurate information on accessing abortion, this rule can have devastating effects. 

As an abortion fund, we already know what it looks like when people are facing multiple barriers to abortion access. We've actually worked in the last year to get more information about abortion access available to patients at our Panhandle Title X clinic. We know the important role these clinics fill, especially in our rural Texas communities -- places where people already live 100s of miles from the nearest abortion provider and may believe that abortion is illegal because of the lack of actual access in their communities. While Title X clinics do not provide abortions, they provide a vital link between people and information about their full range of family planning and reproductive options. Without this information, people in Texas and other low-access areas will find it EVEN HARDER to access abortion. And that's with it already being really, really, ridiculously hard. 

We cannot sit idle while rules that are "not that bad" chip away at people's right to an abortion. What is a right with no access? A while back, a Baby Boomer asked why young people today don't care about Roe, and our question was: What is Roe to people who cannot access an abortion without jumping through flaming hoops, running an obstacle course, having their dignity assaulted, and all to perhaps come up short at the finish line? This is not a question of "freedom of speech" or the need to keep abortion separate from other family planning because of some people's anti-abortion sensibilities. It is about denying people their rights -- usually the people in our communities having their rights revoked in a myriad of ways every single day. If we care about people being able to have true reproductive freedom, we need to oppose the Domestic Gag Rule.