‘Gag rule’ would restrict KBFPC ability to inform clients

In 1983 a group of inspired and motivated volunteers recognized a need for low-cost and informative reproductive health care in our community. Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic (KBFPC) began as a once-a-month offering, staffed by dedicated volunteers. Today it features skilled, experienced staff members in a professional clinic and REC Room, open five days a week, providing services to women and men, teens to mature adults. This year marks the 20th anniversary that KBFPC has received Title X funding to support those services.

KBFPC is one part of an invaluable complement of health care providers available in the community, and among its services provides well-woman annual health checks, bills insurance carriers, and refers to other providers when appropriate. KBFPC is solely unique in offering specialized reproductive health services on a low to no cost basis, thus providing access to those who may not seek services elsewhere.

Another priority of the clinic has been to honor clients as individuals and provide them complete and accurate information regarding their health and their choices. On March 4 a domestic “gag rule” was published, limiting the information that can be provided to clients and patients at Title X-funded sites. The rule changes must be implemented starting on May 3. This regulation dictates that clinic providers and staff are not able to specify contact information for a provider who performs abortions. Clinic staff are not even permitted to acknowledge that abortion is one of the legal options available to women in the U.S.

One of the foundations of a beneficial provider-client relationship is trust, and that trust is undermined when the provider is unable to provide complete and accurate education. Studies show that health outcomes are poorer when access to care is limited. This policy means that millions of women across the nation will be denied access to life-saving reproductive health services while money is funneled to entities that offer abstinence-only education and fertility awareness based methods instead of the full range of contraceptive methods.

KBFPC is exploring means to mitigate the effects of this policy. There are several lawsuits across the Nation opposing the new rules, and we are hopeful about an injunction. However, we are also preparing to work within the rule if necessary. This is going to be costly and challenging. Our mission remains to “provide broad access to reproductive health care services and education in a supportive and empowering environment.” This mission is simply stated, and yet encompasses the breadth and scope of care and services we aim to offer. Please take this opportunity to learn about the changes affecting health care nationally, and act locally by supporting KBFPC.

KBFPC offers a full range of expert reproductive health care meeting all clients wherever they are in their lives and needs, including pre-pregnancy and infertility counseling, cervical and breast cancer screening and diagnostic care, contraceptive services, STD/HIV screening and treatment, pregnancy testing and options counseling, education, and more.

There are several ways you can support KBFPC during the next few weeks:

• Demonstrate that our services are necessary; this would be a great time to get that check up.

• Learn more about the Title X rule changes and inform others about the harsh impacts.

• Donate financially to aid with potential implementation changes (kbfpc.kindful.com).

The Clinic has always been fortunate to receive donations of time and money from members of our community, and the changing political environment makes that local support ever more critical and precious.

Shay Hoffman is a registered nurse and has lived in Homer for twenty years. She is a member of the Board of Directors of Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, and previously worked as a clinic assistant and volunteer.