August 15, 2019

Multnomah County, with support from the Oregon Health Authority and Governor Kate Brown, will continue to provide comprehensive pregnancy options counseling despite a Trump administration order limiting safety-net clinics across the nation that have relied on Title X funds from providing comprehensive pregnancy options counseling, information, and referrals.

Clinical and public health leaders at Multnomah County feared a gag order would jeopardize patient health

”I’m grateful to Gov. Brown for stepping up to protect the integrity of our patient-provider relationships,” said Multnomah County Chair Deborah Kafoury. “We must give women the power to make health decisions that are right for them. That power comes not just from legal protections but from accurate and comprehensive information that is free from politics.”

Earlier this year, 21 states, led by Oregon, sued the Trump Administration to stop the rule. But last month a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the gag order — prohibiting health providers from discussing abortion services with women in their care or referring women to abortion providers — could go into effect pending litigation. 

Federal law already prohibits federal funds from being used for abortion.  

In June 2018, the federal Department of Health and Human Services announced a rule limiting how Title X funding could be applied to services, forbidding providers from discussing abortion as a legal option and one that reflects standard medical care practices.

Multnomah County Health programs provide comprehensive reproductive health services that have historically been partly funded by Title X, through the Oregon Health Authority’s Reproductive Health Program. Health care providers at county clinics feared the move would harm their clients by limiting the information they receive and unravel a steady decline in the county’s unplanned pregnancy rates.

“As a primary care provider, I have a duty to provide unbiased information that allows the client to make an informed decision about their health,” said Multnomah County’s Deputy Nurse Practitioner Director Charlene Maxwell. “No one other than the client is able to make these decisions, and no one other than the client will experience the full outcome of these decisions.”

Gov. Brown vowed to withdraw the state from the federal grant program after nearly 50 years, and fund family planning with state dollars if the rule was allowed to go into effect. On July 15th, the Department of Health and Human Services notified Title X grantees including OHA that compliance with the rule was required. On that date, Oregon ceased using all Title X funds.

"The government has no place in the conversations between women and their doctors,” said Brown. “In Oregon, we refuse to let this administration prevent women and families from accessing critical information and services they need to lead a healthy life."