POLITICS

Trump's Abortion 'Gag Rule' Met With First Legal Challenge

The new policy will strip federal funding for reproductive health and prevent doctors from talking to patients about abortion.

Washington state’s attorney general announced Monday that he’ll soon file a legal challenge to President Donald Trump’s new “gag rule,” a policy that will put strict limits on federal funding for reproductive health care and prevents women from obtaining information about abortion.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement Monday he’ll argue that the Trump administration is making unlawful changes to the Title X family planning program, which was formed in 1970 to reduce the rate of unwanted pregnancies. The challenge is expected to be the first of many lawsuits aimed at the new policy. 

Under the gag rule that the Department of Health and Human Services issued Friday, groups that provide abortions or abortion referrals will soon be barred from participating in the $286 million federal family planning program ― a major swipe at groups such as Planned Parenthood that provide contraception, cancer screenings and testing for sexually transmitted infections, in addition to abortions, often to low-income women. 

The rule, set to go into effect in about 60 days, would also put a “gag” on Title X providers by banning them from referring patients to abortion providers, and it would let those providers refuse to give information about abortion to their patients.

“Patients should be able to make well-informed decisions based on complete, unbiased information about their health care options,” Ferguson said in a statement Monday. “Those decisions must stay between patients and their medical providers — not the federal government.”

The Trump administration’s new rule also mandates a physical wall between family planning services and abortion services ― an undertaking requiring separate entrances and exits, duplicate records and other costly measures. 

Ferguson estimated that the new rule could put about 90 percent of Washington’s Title X family planning service providers out of business. 

Last week’s development came weeks after Trump took aim at abortion rights during his State of the Union address, using graphic imagery to mischaracterize scenarios in which an abortion would be performed during a pregnancy’s final weeks. 

Meanwhile, reproductive rights advocates have been closely monitoring anti-abortion groups’ attempts to bring cases to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has yet to be tested on the issue since Justice Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed, tilting the court more in favor of conservative causes.  

CONVERSATIONS