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Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday criticized a proposed rule that he says would make major changes to the federal family planning program known as Title X, including creating barriers to a woman's ability to obtain an abortion.
The proposed rule would ban clinics from sharing physical space and financial resources with abortion providers like Planned Parenthood.
In a letter sent to top Trump administration officials, Baker said he was troubled by that provision and others in the proposed rule that he said would force providers to violate the confidentiality of patients.
He also opposed provisions in the rule that he said would require that all pregnant women be referred to prenatal care whether they want to or not, and make counseling on abortion virtually impossible, even for those who want it.
Baker said the proposed rule should be rejected in its entirety.
"We basically expressed concerns that some of the proposals being made by the administration would limit or significantly hinder, in some cases perhaps deny women access to title 10 services, family planning services, prenatal care services and the like," the Republican governor told reporters. "We urged them to take them back and I'm sure they will get a lot of comments from people that sound like ours, and I hope that they do take them back."
The administration has said it supports family planning and isn't cutting funding -- but is instead drawing a "bright line" between birth control and abortion.
Title X serves about 4 million low-income people, mainly women. Disruptions could affect women's access to long-acting contraceptives, such as implants and intrauterine devices. Those are more effective than daily pills that can be forgotten, but also much more expensive upfront.
Abortion is legal, but under long-standing law and regulations, taxpayer money cannot be used to pay for abortions.
Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts, applauded Baker's letter. She described the proposed changes as a "gag rule" that will "devastate women's health nationwide."
"The result of this gag rule is that people will not get the health care they need. They won't get birth control, cancer screenings, STD testing and treatment, or even general women's health exams," she said.
In his letter, Baker said he's committed to working with state lawmakers and the state's congressional delegation "to ensure that women in Massachusetts continue to have access to comprehensive family planning and health care services that meet their individual needs."
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