A federal appeals court has rejected efforts to block the Trump administration from banning abortion referrals by federally funded family planning clinics, including affiliates of Planned Parenthood.
The 9th U.S. Court of Appeals’ ruling Friday night will allow the policy to take effect while lawsuits from states, medical groups and reproductive rights advocates continue.
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Chief Judge Sidney Thomas, a Bill Clinton appointee, said in a brief statement that none of its judges requested a vote on whether to hold a hearing on a request from Planned Parenthood for an emergency injunction.
The Department of Health and Human Services set a deadline of midnight Monday for providers across the country to either comply with the policy or be kicked out of the federal Title X family planning program and potentially forfeit millions of dollars in federal grants. Several states and medical groups that serve nearly half of the approximately 4 million low-income women that Title X covers for free and subsidized birth control, STD screenings and other health services have said they won’t participate under the new restrictions.
Planned Parenthood earlier this week had petitioned the court to freeze the rule, saying its hundreds of clinics will be forced to leave the program rather than follow what it calls a “gag rule” on its providers.
The women’s health network said it will decide on Monday how to proceed.
“Trump’s administration is trying to force us to keep information from our patients,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, Planned Parenthood’s acting president. “The gag rule is unethical, dangerous, and we will not subject our patients to it. We are considering all of our options.”
HHS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Clinics objecting to the policy change have this summer refused to tap federal Title X funds, relying on their own emergency funds or, in a few case, state funding while the legal dispute played out.
Lower courts blocked major provisions of the new rule in April after nearly two dozen states and providers including the American Medical Association and Planned Parenthood sued. But a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit lifted those injunctions on June 20, finding that the administration will likely prevail in the legal battle because the Supreme Court upheld similar Reagan-era rules almost 30 years ago. An 11-judge panel upheld that decision in July, and the full 9th Circuit left that decision in place with Friday night’s ruling.
The court is set to hear arguments on the merits of the case in late September, but a wave of organizations from Colorado to New York to Maine have already begun exiting the Title X program, forfeiting their federal funding and losing access to discounted drugs.
“There is so much harm on the brink of happening now that is devastating to contemplate,” said Ruth Harlow, a senior attorney with the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, who helped lead arguments in the case.