NEWBURGH – A group of volunteers and supporters of Planned Parenthood of the Mid-Hudson Valley gathered Wednesday evening to protest the Trump administration’s recent gag rule forcing the family planning provider out of Title X, a program that guarantees affordable reproductive healthcare for all.
The rally was held outside of Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney’s Newburgh office, with representatives of the congressman in attendance.
Fran Fox-Pizzonia, the vice president of Education and Public Affairs, explained why the rally was being held.
“We wanted to create an immediate response opportunity to highlight what’s happening right now with Title X’s rules that are gagging all family planning providers from speaking about abortion,” Fox-Pizzonia said. “Planned Parenthood is one of many entities that would have to make a decision that is against all medical ethics.”
Tori Blancato, a volunteer for the organization, said Title X matters.
“A lot of patients who go to clinics for screenings and testings are losing their funding,” she said. Blancato said she understands the stereotypes some have about Planned Parenthood in particular and its funding of abortions across the U.S., but had this to say about the organization being an abortion provider.
“Abortion is part of healthcare,” she said. “It’s a woman’s right to choose what happens to her body, and I feel like there is a disconnect with a lot of people, but it’s under reproductive health care in mine and Planned Parenthood’s opinion.”
Orange County Legislator Kevindaryan Lujan was in attendance and said the gag rule will have a negative impact on minority and low-income communities, including those in the City of Newburgh.
“This is going to affect communities like ours,” Lujan said. “It breaks my heart that communities like ours are going to be drastically affected. Healthcare is a human right.”
Volunteers and supporters of the organization shared personal stories on how it has helped them and their loved ones.
Blancato shared an experience she had with a friend who had not come out as gay and went to their local clinic to get tested for HIV confidentially.
“I was in high school, and I had a best friend who was gay and he didn’t know where to get tested for HIV,” Blancato said. “He was able to pay for HIV testing because of the sliding scale fees that Title X provides.”
Ingrid Mazzola, a longtime volunteer, became a supporter of Planned Parenthood after a friend went through a traumatic experience from having complications after a botched abortion.
“She felt she had no place to go except with an abortion arranged by her married lover,” said Mazzola. “We rushed her to the hospital when it was too late. She died two days later, and they couldn’t help her.”
The Trump administration’s gag rule forces family planning providers like Planned Parenthood out of federal funding for basic reproductive healthcare services due to its administering of abortions. Abortions made up three percent of the organization’s funding, according to its 2013-14 annual report.
That service is funded through private donors, as per the Hyde Amendment of 1976, which prohibits federal government funding of abortions, with some exceptions being made for cases of rape, incest and when the mother’s life is in danger.