Planned Parenthood could lose up to $60 million in funding after a panel of federal appeals court judges ruled the Trump administration’s “gag rule,” making access more difficult for women seeking abortions, could go into effect.
The new rules ban clinics funded with taxpayer dollars from referring women for abortions. The rules hit providers such as Planned Parenthood, which offer family-planning services, including abortion procedures.
“We’re immediately asking the 9th Circuit for an emergency lease from the stay,” said Paul Dillon, Planned Parenthood of Greater Washington and Idaho spokesman. “Hopefully we’ll get a decision soon and we hope that the situation will be temporary.”
Many clinics say the new rules would force them to open new offices or do expensive building remodels to stay in business.
The lower court cases that blocked the new rules from taking effect were filed in California, Oregon and in U.S. District Court in Spokane.
The three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco determined the rules were “reasonable” and adhere to federal law prohibiting taxpayer dollars from being spent on “programs where abortion is a method of family planning,” according to the Associated Press.
“If the program refers patients to abortion providers for family planning services, then that program is logically one ‘where abortion is a method of family planning,’ ” the panel wrote.
The Trump administration lauded the ruling and predicted it would ultimately prevail on further appeal.
Planned Parenthood vowed to fight the decision.
“Today’s ruling reinforces the need for Congress to act to block the Title X gag rule because it’s become very clear we can’t rely on the courts to protect people’s access to basic health care,” Dillon said.
Title X is a 1970 law to expand access to family planning and other health care needs.
While taxpayer dollars are prohibited from paying for abortions except in cases of incest, rape or to save the life of the pregnant woman, abortion opponents contend Title X is indirectly used to subsidize abortion providers.
In 2017, the Greater Inland Northwest and Idaho Planned Parenthood received $4.3 million in federal funding from Title X. Dillon said the next plan of action will be through the legislative branch.
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a spending bill on Wednesday that reverses the gag rule and increases Title X funding.
“Unless overturned, this flawed decision will hurt Washington women, especially low-income women in rural Washington,” Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement on Thursday. “We will swiftly challenge this decision. I expect this decision to be reversed.”
The administration’s new rules are a return to rules that were adopted in 1988 and subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court. Under the Clinton administration, those rules were abandoned in favor of a requirement that the clinics provide neutral abortion counseling and referrals upon request, according to the AP.
Those challenging Trump’s approach pointed to the Affordable Care Act, which bars the government from creating unreasonable barriers to medical care or interfering with communications between the patient and provider. But the 9th Circuit said that just because the government is refusing to subsidize abortion referrals does not mean it’s creating barriers or interfering with communications.
While the new rules would permit clinic staff to discuss abortion with clients, they would no longer be required to do so. If patients ask for an abortion referral, staff would be required to give a list of primary care providers with no indication as to which provide abortions.
The list would have to include providers who do not offer abortions, and it could not include clinics or organizations that aren’t primary care providers, such as Planned Parenthood.
“This decision is a major step toward the Trump Administration being able to ensure that all Title X projects comply with the Title X statute and do not support abortion as a method of family planning,” Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a news release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Friday, June 21, 2019 to correct Paul Dillon’s title.
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