How Title X Cuts Impact UW Women’s Health

Some student advocates worry that slashed budgets could drive student to misleading crisis pregnancy centers.

Earlier this month, the Trump administration proposed a new rule prohibiting clinics that receive Title X funding from giving referrals and counseling on abortion. Since then, many have pushed back against the proposed changes, voicing concerns that it will be detrimental to women’s health as a whole, especially low-income people.

College students would be one of the the groups most affected by such restrictions. As more news comes out about the rule, people have been prompted to look more critically at the reproductive care available to students.

“It will make college students definitely more susceptible to bad information and ideologically driven imperatives rather than actual healthcare,” NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said.

Currently, University of Washington students enjoy access to several comprehensive women’s healthcare clinics. On campus, students can get pregnancy and family planning care through Hall Health Center. Nearby in Roosevelt, both the UW Medical Center Family Planning Center and a Planned Parenthood clinic provide contraception and abortion services.

There’s also the privately funded 3W Medical for Women (on Eighth Avenue Northeast off Northeast Fourth Street), which provides services including pregnancy tests and STD testing. However, this clinic has raised the ire of student advocates of women’s healthcare and has contentious relations with other clinics nearby. That’s because 3W Medical is one of the controversial crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

When 3W Medical opened in May 2017, it quickly courted criticism from student groups like NARAL Pro-Choice Washington and its on-campus offshoot, Huskies for NARAL. According to the 3W Medical website, the clinic provides services like well-woman exams and STD testing. However, they state that they do not provide abortion referral, counseling, or contraception.

“3W presents itself as a full-spectrum women’s healthcare center, but they do not offer counseling or referrals about abortion, they do not offer all contraceptives, and they have a stated agenda about encouraging women to continue pregnancies,” UWMC obstetrics and gynecology doctor Sarah Prager said.

Last July, the King County Board of Health ordered 3W Medical and other CPCs to put up signs stating “This facility is not a healthcare facility.”

Like many CPCs, 3W is privately funded—often by religious organizations and other community members. Historically, they have been exempt from getting Title X funding, but this may soon change.

In May, NPR reported that under the new proposal, federal funding could start going towards clinics that were previously ineligible, some of which oppose contraception and abortion. (Seattle Weekly reached out to 3W for a statement about their funding and opinions about the new Title X rule, but did not recieve a reply.)

While concerns grow regarding the future of Title X funding, some students believe that the recent news bodes well for promoting reproductive healthcare to a wider group of people. Huskies for Life president Marie Nicole Bentler says that many students wish to get care from clinics and organizations that align with their beliefs. “If a woman does not want to go to a place such as Planned Parenthood, there should be other options for her. Furthermore, it should not be the sole clinic promoted to the UW community,” Bentler said.

Yet pro-choice proponents say that crisis pregnancy centers’ blatant use of misinformation poses a threat to public health, and the growing support from government officials paves the way for far greater consequences beyond restricting access to abortion. Many women’s healthcare professionals and advocates have stated that restricting Title X will also undercut access to cancer screenings, sexual-health education, and many other services.

Mariel Wettick, a recent college graduate who moved to Seattle to campaign for the Washington state branch of NARAL Pro-Choice, says this is especially critical for college students who are minors or do not have the financial means to get access to reproductive care.

“It’s just another system of oppression that is bringing them down again because of this overarching ideology that people—particularly women—should not have the ability to decide what they can and should be able to do with their bodies,” Wettick said.

Update (July 16): After not returning our reporter’s contact attempts while reporting the story, 3W contacted Seattle Weekly after the piece’s publication. It does not self-identify as a crisis pregnancy center, but was among the clinics that were sent letters by King County for potentially needing to post the “This facility is not a healthcare facility” sign because the county’s health board considers it a limited service pregnancy center. The rule is only enforced if the county recieves complaints against a certain clinic, and no complaints have been filed against 3W to date.

3W disputes Dr. Prager’s assertion that the clinic is “encouraging women to continue pregnancies,” pointing to the line on the 3W website “About Us” page that states: “3W Medical for Women believes that women are strong, smart and capable of making their own reproductive health decisions.”

3W said it will not apply for Title X funding if that option becomes available to clinics like theirs.

UPDATE: Below is a letter to the editor from Susan Rutherford, MD, the medical director at 3W Medical for Women.

“How Title X Cuts Impact UW Women’s Health (published June 20, 2018) extensively discusses our nonprofit clinic 3W Medical for Women, but you failed to get our side of the story. We were contacted once by intern Keiko DeLuca on June 6 through email. On June 7, twice I called what she gave as her direct phone number and left voicemails. She did not reply at all, nor did she follow up with email. The photo showing vehicles and crediting her reveals that she came to the clinic while we were there working, yet she did not come inside to speak with us.

Our website describes our philosophy and services in detail. We are not a “crisis pregnancy center.” We do have a limited scope of outpatient services, none of which require after-hours physician availability. Our medical consultation includes education about abortion and contraception as requested by the patient, but that is a small fraction of what we do.

You quote Dr. Sarah Prager, who has never spoken with any of us. She erroneously says that “3W presents itself as a full spectrum women’s healthcare center.” She also claims “that they have a stated agenda about encouraging women to continue pregnancies.” Nowhere do we say that. See the website: “Our mission is to respectfully provide compassionate evidence-based sexual health services and education necessary to make informed healthcare decisions.” On the About Us page: “3W Medical for Women believes that women are strong, smart and capable of making their own reproductive health decisions.”

The King County Board of Health never ordered 3W to post signs and we do not fit their definition of a crisis pregnancy center any more than ObGyn offices who provide the same services.

3W does not plan to apply for Title X funding. We do not feel that it applies to us because we are not a substitute for federally qualified health centers that provide ongoing established patient care.

Finally, medical providers at 3W are volunteers, including me. All who have volunteered so far are board certified in ObGyn. The implication that we provide misinformation or substandard care is highly offensive. We welcome patients to see for themselves by scheduling a free of charge consultation and exam (for STI or other lab testing, the charges are minimal).

Your readers should know that we are here to help women in need to the best of our ability, no insurance needed. We are happy to answer their questions about appointments if they call or come by.