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Federal judge blocks Trump administration family planning gag rule

April 29, 2019
Area(s) of Interest: Women's Health Reproductive Endocrinology/Infertility 


Judge Edward Chen of the U.S. District Court in Northern California on Friday granted a preliminary injunction stopping implementation in California of the Trump administration “gag rule” that bans physicians in the Title X program from telling women how they can safely and legally access abortion.  The California Medical Association (CMA) provided a declaration in support of this lawsuit, which was filed by the California Attorney General.

Although this most recent ruling only applies to California, Judge Stanley Bastian of the U.S. District Court in Yakima, Washington, last week issued a nationwide injunction stopping the rule from taking effect while several other legal challenges proceed.  

CMA believes this rule would interfere with the physician-patient relationship, undermine established medical access and prevent low-income people from accessing the full range of reproductive health care.

The rule, which was set to take effect May 3, would bar qualified family planning providers that provide abortions or abortion referrals from participating in the $286 million federal Title X family planning program. It would also have eliminated current requirements that Title X sites offer a broad range of medically approved family planning methods and nondirective pregnancy options counseling; and directed new funds to faith-based and other organizations that promote fertility awareness and abstinence as methods of family planning, rather than the full range of evidence-based family planning methods.

Another federal judge in Oregon earlier in the week said he, too, intended to grant a preliminary injunction in a similar lawsuit brought by 20 states and the District of Columbia. Two additional lawsuits challenging the Trump administration’s rule are pending in California and Maine.

Groups receiving money under the Title X program, which in California serves 1 million low-income women, were already prohibited from performing abortions with those funds. Under the new rule, federally-funded family planning clinics must now maintain a “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the government and any organization that provides abortions or abortion referrals.

Established in 1970, Title X is the sole federal program dedicated to funding family planning services for low-income individuals. Title X supports the delivery of family planning and related services including contraception, STD prevention and treatment, pregnancy tests, and life-saving cancer screenings. It plays a vital role in the nation’s public health safety net by ensuring that timely, safe, and evidence-based care is available to women, men and adolescents, regardless of their financial circumstances.

CMA believes this new rule will severely undermine the effectiveness of the Title X program.  By reconfiguring who receives Title X funding, as well as the scope of family planning methods and services that those providers offer, these new regulations will limit access to critically needed care and services for millions of individuals who depend upon the Title X program for their care and will result in harm to patients and the public health.

CMA submitted comments strongly opposing this rule when it was first proposed. Read CMA’s comments here.

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