ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton submitted a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar Wednesday, urging him not to implement proposed changes to the Title X Program.

“Birth control is fundamental health care and should not be controversial in 2018,” Dayton said. “More than 45 years ago, Congress created the federal Title X Family Planning Program with bipartisan support.”

Federal Title X funds currently allow for more than 53,000 Minnesotans to access reproductive health care services, including coverage for vital preventative health screenings.

Planned Parenthood has been the primary grantee for Title X in Minnesota since the program began. The proposed changes effectively bar patients from receiving care from any health care provider that provides or refers legal abortion. Half of Planned Parenthood’s Minnesota clinics are in rural or medically underserved areas.

“For decades, low-income Minnesotans statewide have relied on this funding for critical health care service, including breast and cervical cancer screenings and birth control,” Dayton added.

Dayton says he stands with the Minnesota Medical Association, the Minnesota Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other Minnesota health care providers who say the new “gag rule” interferes with provider-patient relationships, and calls the proposals a “violation of medical ethics.”

Gov. Dayton’s full letter to Sec. Azar is availble online.