In the aftermath of recent abortion bans sweeping the country and President Donald Trump’s abortion “gag rule” being allowed by federal judges to go into effect June 20, Representative Salud Carbajal hosted a “reproductive rights roundtable” with Planned Parenthood Central Coast leaders and local reproductive justice advocates Monday morning at the Santa Barbara Planned Parenthood. The gag rule cuts Title X funding to any health-care clinics that provide abortions or referrals for them — even though existing federal law already prohibits federal dollars from paying for abortions.
“More than ever, we need to stay vigilant on access to reproductive care,” Carbajal said. “This is really a women’s rights issue, a civil rights issue. … The gag rule is an attack on the people Title X provides for.”
Title X is the only federal family-planning program in the country, and it serves more than four million people every year, the majority of whom are people of color and earn below the poverty level. Planned Parenthood could lose up to $60 million in funds because its affiliates serve 40 percent of Title X patients nationwide, making the organization the largest recipient of its funds. The funding from Title X has never been used to fund abortions, but instead funds other reproductive health-care services like birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing.
“We need to identify and reach out to my fellow colleagues who still need education on [the importance of reproductive care],” Carbajal said about how to protect Planned Parenthood from losing Title X funding. “The majority of them are overwhelmingly on the Republican side.”
Jenna Tosh, the CEO of Planned Parenthood Central Coast, pointed out to Carbajal that because the current Congress is the first majority Congress to be pro-reproductive rights, there is some hope for his plan. “This, of course, isn’t the first time there’s been a majority-Democratic Congress, but it’s the first time in terms of raw numbers on the issues that the majority of congressmembers are pro-reproductive rights.”
The seven Planned Parenthood attendees and five reproductive justice advocates sitting at the table shared stories with Carbajal about how access to reproductive care affected them and its importance to the entire community, not just women.
“I wanted to make note of the fact that abortion care is not just affecting women, but our transgender patients, too,” said Luz Reyes-Martín, president of the Santa Barbara Women’s Political Committee.
There are currently nine states that have restricted abortion access in recent months and six that have taken steps to protect it. In regard to the gag rule, California is one of three states that received preliminary injunctions from lower courts, which will temporarily block the rule.
“We are in a state of emergency, and Planned Parenthood Central Coast is so lucky to have a congressman meet with us and hear out our concerns,” Tosh concluded about Carbajal’s meeting.