Appeals court says Trump family planning restrictions can take effect

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Barring further court orders,President Donald Trump’s administration can enforce a rule finalized this spring that strips federal Title X funding from any clinic that provides abortions or abortion referrals. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

A federal appeals court this morning said the Trump administration’s family planning rules can take effect nationwide while several lawsuits play out, delivering a major blow to Planned Parenthood and states challenging the overhaul.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted the Trump administration’s request to lift national injunctions ordered by lower federal courts in Oregon and Washington state, as well as a statewide injunction in California.

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A panel of three judges, all appointed by previous Republican presidents, said the administration will likely prevail in the legal battle over the Title X family planning program since the Supreme Court held up similar Reagan-era rules almost 30 years ago, though they were reversed by the Clinton administration.

“Absent a stay, HHS will be forced to allow taxpayer dollars to be spent in a manner that it has concluded violates the law, as well as the Government’s important policy interest in ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not go to fund or subsidize abortions,” the judges wrote in a 3-0 opinion.

Barring further court orders, the Trump administration can enforce a rule finalized this spring that strips federal Title X funding from any clinic that provides abortions or abortion referrals. The administration and anti-abortion movement have celebrated the rules for blocking tens of millions of federal dollars to Planned Parenthood, which serves a large portion of the 4 million low-income patients receiving family planning and health services through the program.

Provider groups, including the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have called this a “gag rule” and warned that it will interfere with sensitive conversations between doctors and patients.

For the first time in the Title X program’s decades-long history, the new rules also allow funding to faith-based clinics opposing abortion and contraception and to promote “natural” family planning methods, including abstinence.

Nearly two dozen states, mostly led by Democrats, as well as provider and progressive advocacy groups have filed numerous lawsuits to overturn the Trump rules. Some states challenging the rule,including Oregon and Washington, have said they will withdraw from the Title X program if the new rules are allowed to take effect, potentially forfeiting millions of dollars.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democratic presidential candidate, said the state is still evaluating legal options after the court’s decision.

“We are prepared to take every necessary action to protect our family planning program and women’s access to healthcare in Washington state,” Inslee spokesperson Casey katims said in a statement.

The 9th Circuit is still set to hear arguments on the merits of the case on an expedited basis.

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