Trump Administration Sued by States Over Abortion-Referral Rule

(Bloomberg) -- California and other Democrat-led states are going to court to block the Trump administration’s policy that bars taxpayer-funded health-care providers from referring pregnant women for abortion services.

Opponents of the new rules say they will cut off Planned Parenthood and other health providers that offer abortion services from hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding. The referral restrictions are part of a broader, conservative shift by the administration, which has been blocked in court from undoing an Obamacare requirement that employers provide insurance coverage for contraception.

California filed a challenge to Trump’s abortion restrictions Monday in San Francisco federal court. A multi-state lawsuit, brought mostly by Democratic-controlled states, is set to be filed Tuesday in federal court in Eugene, Oregon, the New York attorney general’s office said in a statement.

The federal Title X program last year offered $286.5 million in grants that funded family-planning services. Each year the program serves about 4 million women across the U.S., most of them with poverty-level incomes.

The administration’s new policy “prohibits the use of Title X funds to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning,” according to a fact sheet published by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Clinics will also be required to create physical walls separating their abortion services from other family-planning programs. Critics say a “gag rule” in the regulations that runs counter to medical ethics will prevent Planned Parenthood from referring women to health-care providers that perform abortions and authorizes providers to give only biased, one-sided information about carrying a pregnancy to term.

“The Trump administration’s gag rule is an attack on over 1 million low-income Californians who rely on life-saving screenings and care from providers they trust,” California Governor Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

The referral restrictions are set to go into effect 60 days after the date of publication of the new regulations, while there’s a yearlong wait on enforcement of the requirement that clinics have separate entrances and exits, treatment facilities and patient records.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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