Appeals court allows Trump abortion referral ban to take effect

Appeals court allows Trump abortion referral ban to take effect

The Trump administration’s plan to ban federally funded family planning clinics from giving abortion referrals will be allowed to go into effect nationwide, a federal appeals court ruled Thursday.

The ruling means the administration can implement a rule issued earlier this year that bans abortion providers from participating in the Title X family planning program, removes a requirement that clinics provide abortion counseling, and bars providers from referring women for abortions.

The rule was supposed to take effect May 3, but three lower courts issued injunctions, each of which the administration appealed.

Thursday’s ruling: The Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled Thursday that the administration can implement the changes while it challenges the injunctions.

“Absent a stay, HHS will be forced to allow taxpayer dollars to be spent in a manner that it has concluded violates the law,” states the ruling, written by a panel of three judges who were appointed by Republican presidents.

What’s next:

The ruling caught providers by surprise. HHS has not contacted them about the next steps or issued any statements about the ruling. It’s not clear when it will begin implementing the changes. Providers will also have to decide whether they want to comply with the new restrictions and stay in the program or forfeit their grants.

The ruling is a major blow to Planned Parenthood, which serves 40 percent of Title X patients and has vowed to leave the program if the bans go into effect.

The plaintiffs say they’re going to keep fighting against the rule.

Reaction from opponents: From Julie Rabinovitz, president of Essential Access Health in California, the largest Title X grantee in the U.S.

“If allowed to stand, access to essential health services will be delayed for the millions of low-income patients that rely on Title X for care across California and the nation.”

From California Attorney General Xavier Becerra:

“We’re reviewing the Ninth Circuit panel’s ruling on the Trump-Pence gag rule. Staying the preliminary injunction we secured in district court risks access to critical reproductive healthcare for millions of Americans. This ruling allows the Trump-Pence Administration to prohibit doctors and other medical providers from giving factual, unbiased information to patients. We continue our fight in court so that families in California and beyond can get the certainty they need and deserve around medical care in 2019.”

The attorney general for Washington state, which also filed suit against the Trump administration, said he expects the decision to be overturned.

“Unless overturned, this flawed decision will hurt Washington women, especially low-income women in rural Washington,” said Bob Ferguson (D). “We will swiftly challenge this decision. I expect this decision to be reversed.”

React from rule supporters: Anti-abortion groups who have lauded the rule as a way to defund Planned Parenthood praised Thursday’s ruling:

“This ruling is a victory for President Trump and the majority of Americans who do not want to fund the abortion industry with their tax dollars,” said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser.

The Hill has more on the ruling and the reaction here.

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