A federal judge in Washington has temporarily frozen a rule from the Trump administration that would have changed the Title X family planning program to end funding for providers that offer abortions or referrals for abortions, according to Politico. It would have cut off providers like Planned Parenthood, who currently serve 40 percent of Title X patients, from federal funds while providing more funds for conservative anti-choice groups.
There is already a ban on federal funding for abortions. This rule would take that idea much further, banning funds for any organization that provides abortions, or even those refers patients to outside abortion providers. The policy is commonly referred to as a “gag rule,” because it would prevent discussion about abortion as a treatment option by federally funded medical providers.
Like many of the freezes on Trump administration policies, this ruling is meant to stop the new policy from going into place while it is challenged in court.
U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian, an Obama appointee, issued a nationwide injunction staying the changes from taking effect while several other legal challenges proceed. Bastian heard several hours of arguments Thursday from Washington state and the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association challenging the administration’s Title X funding rule and arguments from the Justice Department defending the changes.
Prior to Bastian’s ruling, the new policy was set to go into effect on May 3rd.
Just a few days ago, another judge in Oregon also issued an injuction on the rules, calling them “ham-fisted” and warning they would “reduce health outcomes.” But it was unclear whether that ruling would apply nationwide.
The rule faced a massive backlash from the reproductive rights community, as well as from many states. Almost two dozen states sued alongside medical providers to block the policy. Planned Parenthood and some of these states threatened to leave the Title X program entirely if the policy were instated.
Groups challenging the rules argue that they violate state and federal law, including parts of the Affordable Care Act that bar the government from interfering in communication between medical providers and patients “regarding a full range of treatment options” and those providers ability to give patients “all relevant information to patients making health care decisions.”
The Trump administration says that those requirements of the ACA are not enough to prove that the gag rule would violate federal law.
This ruling is just one step to a final decision about the policy. Those on the side of reproductive rights have vowed to keep fighting.
“This is just temporary. We will be fighting this in the next phase to make this permanent and make sure this rule is never resurrected,” Ruth Harlow, a senior attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, told Politico.