Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia are suing the Trump administration over a new “gag rule” that could prevent family planning clinics that provide abortions or abortion referrals from receiving federal funds.
The rule, announced by the Health and Human Services Department on Feb. 22, was celebrated by social conservatives eager to see a substantial portion of the $286 million Title X federal family planning program redirected to faith-based groups.
Federally funded family planning clinics were already barred from performing abortions with Title X funds. Under the new policy, they could soon be unable to participate in the federal program altogether if they even refer a patient for an abortion ― which could prove to be a major blow for groups such as Planned Parenthood that provide contraception, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted infections, often to low-income women.
Two legal challenges to the revised rule are underway. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday said he was filing a lawsuit on behalf of his state seeking to block the rule, which he argued will prevent “doctors from giving patients unbiased counseling about their reproductive health choices.”
The Trump administration “has doubled down on its attacks on women’s health,” Becerra said in a statement. “This illegal Title X rule denies patients access to critical health care services and prevents doctors from providing comprehensive and accurate information about medical care.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) called the rule “an attack on over one million low-income Californians who rely on life-saving screenings and care from providers they trust.”
“Playing politics with that care is dangerous and grossly irresponsible,” Newsom said. “Our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters deserve better. We’ll fight this attack on women’s health in court.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, both Democrats, on Monday announced another lawsuit with Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
The complaint is expected to be filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon, Brown and Rosenblum said in a statement.
“Everyone deserves the ability make their own decisions about their health care,” Brown said. “This is yet another attack from the Trump administration on women and families, and it is appalling that the federal government wants to rob individuals of the right to complete medical information and full access to the critical health care services they rely on.”
Rosenblum said the new rule may force medical providers to choose between receiving the federal funds or providing patients with full reproductive health coverage.
“Neither is a good or fair option for women and families who often have no other access to medical care,” she said.
Social conservatives hailing the new rule included Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, who praised the policy as “decisive action to disentangle taxpayers from the big abortion industry led by Planned Parenthood.”