A federal judge in Washington state temporarily blocked the Trump administration’s overhaul of the nation’s only federal family planning program. The Trump administration’s rule barred abortion providers from participating in the program, which is currently relied upon by four million people.
U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian, an Obama appointee, issued a nationwide injunction from the bench on Thursday, freezing any changes to the Title X program as a lawsuit brought by Washington state, the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is further litigated in court. The injunction is effective immediately.
The decision comes just two days after a federal judge in Oregon said he would block the domestic gag rule, siding with various Democratic attorneys general, American Medical Association, and Planned Parenthood. Other courts in California and Maine could possibly block the rule too.
“Today’s decision is a victory for the 4 million patients nationwide who rely on trusted family planning providers for access to birth control and other essential health care,” Ruth E. Harlow, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement to ThinkProgress.
“But we know this is not the end of the road,” Harlow continued. “The Trump administration has made clear that they will stop at nothing to curtail access to contraception and other reproductive health services for low-income people. We will continue to fight for what is right every step of the way.”
#BREAKING: a federal judge in Yakima just granted my request for a nationwide injunction blocking @realDonaldTrump’s harmful #TitleX “gag rule”, which would have severely impacted access to critical health care services for women. WA is now 21-0 vs the Trump administration.
— Bob Ferguson (@BobFergusonAG) April 25, 2019
Some parts of the rule were set to take effect May 3. If the rule was fully implemented, federal officials would bar abortion providers like Planned Parenthood (which serves 40% of Title X patients) from receiving Title X funds. The rule also prevents any Title X provider from even mentioning abortion during pregnancy counseling, which is why critics liken it to a gag.
Currently, no federal dollars pay for abortions; providers looking to participate in the grant program use Title X funds to subsidize services like breast cancer screenings for low-income patients. The rule would have likely diverted grant money to centers that have a history of misleading patients.
“We applaud the courts for recognizing that health care should be held to the highest medical standards, not subject to the beliefs of one politician or party,” said Jane Rogers, board chair of the Family Planning Council of Nebraska (FPC of NE). The nonprofit was awarded $2 million in Title X funds this year, instead of the state, and says it will prioritize health care over politics unlike the governor who tried to cut family planning funding.
“Nebraskans and their providers are the only ones who should control what is discussed during a family planning visit,” Rogers said in a statement.
This lawsuit against Trump’s Title X changes is the kind of case that could be appealed all the way to the Supreme Court. The high court upheld a similar rule under the Reagan administration.
Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Kamala Harris (CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY), and Elizabeth Warren (MA) said they would rescind the domestic gag rule day one if elected.