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Brochures at Planned Parenthood in Madison, Nov. 3, 2017. PHOTO BY MICHELLE STOCKER

From 40 to 50 people visit the Planned Parenthood clinic on Madison's South Park Street each day, many of them low-income women of color and a significant number without any health insurance to pay for Pap tests, breast and cervical cancer screenings, birth control devices or any of the other health services that the clinic offers.

The organization and hundreds of other clinics around the country get reimbursed for helping those who have no means to pay through a federal program called Title X, which since 1971 has existed to make sure all women have access to family planning — the goal being to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in America and thereby save money for other government programs.

But Title X funding to organizations like Planned Parenthood is now in jeopardy because of Donald Trump's insistence on instituting a so-called "domestic gag rule" that would deny funding to any clinic that includes the word "abortion" in counseling pregnant women about their options or that actually performs abortions. Title X doesn't pay for abortions, but has historically required that patients at clinics it supports are offered abortion referrals.

The gag-rule change to Title X, which has long been a goal of the anti-abortion lobby, is just one of several attacks on Title X that the administration is proposing. Those changes will severely undermine reproductive health care for impoverished women across America.

Trump's gag rule has been criticized by eight doctors' groups as "dangerously intruding on the patient-provider relationship." Many doctors point out that to withhold health options from patients violates medical ethics.

The Department of Health and Human Services is currently soliciting comments about the Title X changes and will do so until the end of the month. It's important that those who want to protect the right to basic reproductive health care for women who otherwise wouldn't receive care make their views known during this open comment window.

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Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. and on Twitter @DaveZweifel. 

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