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Trump can block funding to clinics that make abortion referrals, appeals court rules

Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal appeals court decided unanimously Thursday to lift three injunctions that barred the Trump administration from denying funds to family planning clinics that refer clients for abortions.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals said the 2019 Trump directive may be enforced pending appeal of orders by judges in California, Washington and Oregon blocking restriction.

The panel said the Title X program previously was limited by similar restrictions, which the U.S. Supreme Court upheld.

"Title X is a limited grant program focused on providing pre-pregnancy family planning services -- it does not fund medical care for pregnant women," the 9th Circuit said. "The Final Rule can reasonably be viewed as a choice to subsidize certain medical services and not others."

Voting to lift the injunctions were 9th Circuit Judges Edward Leavy, a Reagan appointee, and Consuelo M. Callahan and Carlos T. Bea, both appointees of President George W. Bush.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Thursday's decision "risks access to critical reproductive health care for millions of Americans."

"This ruling allows the Trump-Pence administration to prohibit doctors and other medical providers from giving factual, unbiased information to patients," Becerra said.

Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, called the court's ruling "devastating for the millions of people who rely on Title X health centers for cancer screenings, HIV tests, affordable birth control and other critical primary and preventive care."

Planned Parenthood must either comply with the rules or lose millions of dollars in funding. The organization said Thursday it had a "limited emergency fund" it will use to continue services while fighting the court's decision.


The prohibition on abortion referrals will take effect immediately. A requirement that providers keep their Title X-funded projects physically and financially separate from abortion services is slated to take effect in March 2020.

The new rule also requires providers to extol the virtues of abstinence to single women.

About 4 million mostly low-income people receive services under the family planning law -- 1 million of them in California.

Title X was signed into law by former President Nixon. It has always prohibited using program funds for abortions, although abortion providers receive federal money for other services.

(c)2019 Los Angeles Times

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