Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association filed a joint lawsuit Tuesday to block President Donald Trump’s new “gag rule,” which will prevent family planning clinics that receive federal funds from providing counseling that promotes, supports or refers women for abortion, regardless of the women’s wishes or the doctors’ medical judgment.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Oregon, argues that the gag rule announced Feb. 22 by the Department of Health and Human Services threatens the health of millions of people who receive care under the Title X family planning program.
Family planning clinics were already prohibited from using money under the $286 million Title X program to fund abortion procedures. The new rule, set to take effect in May, would ban those clinics from effectively participating in Title X altogether if they merely referred a patient for an abortion.
The policy would greatly hurt organizations like Planned Parenthood, which provides reproductive care to what that organization said is about 40 percent of Title X patients.
“Four million people receive care through Title X … and for many of our patients, we are their only source of care for cancer screenings, birth control and crucial preventative care,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a March 5 statement about the lawsuit. “Planned Parenthood will never force our doctors and nurses to withhold medical information from our patients, and we will fight the Trump administration in the courts to protect everyone’s fundamental right to health care.”
Wen also noted, “Title X serves women and families with low incomes, the majority of whom are people of color … and the gag rule will worsen existing racial, socioeconomic and geographical health disparities. Families that are struggling to make ends meet and people who live in rural areas must have the same access to full, unbiased information from their doctor as everyone else.”
For more than 20 years, Congress has required that patients who receive information about their pregnancies through Title X-funded programs must receive “nondirective” counseling. Under the Affordable Care Act of 2010, lawmakers said that HHS cannot impose rules that interfere with doctors’ ability to provide all treatment options and relevant information to patients or that create unreasonable barriers to health care. The Tuesday lawsuit argues that the gag rule violates the ACA by forcing doctors to withhold information and by imposing unreasonable barriers.
“If allowed to stand, the [rule] will reinforce a dangerous idea ― that physicians and others in the medical profession are to place the interests of government above the interests of their patients,” the lawsuit states.
On Monday, 21 states and the District of Columbia announced their decision to sue the Trump administration over the same rule. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said his state was filing its own lawsuit to block the rule, arguing that the Trump administration “has doubled down on its attacks on women’s health.”
The new HHS policy was celebrated by anti-abortion social conservatives eager to see more Title X funds redirected to faith-based groups. The rule represents “decisive action to disentangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List, told The Washington Post.
Read the full lawsuit from Planned Parenthood and the AMA below:
Clarification: Language has been adjusted to clarify how the new gag rule would limit doctors’ speech.