California AG files to block Title X abortion 'gag rule'
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California's attorney general on Friday asked a federal judge to block a new Trump administration rule designed to strip abortion clinics of federal funds distributed through the Title X program.
San Francisco, Calif., (CNA) - In a March 22 announcement, California's Attorney General Xavier Becerra called the Protect Life Rule "reckless and illegal" and "a dangerous political ploy to sabotage women's reproductive healthcare."
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services finalized the "Protect Life Rule" in late February, by which abortion clinics will be ineligible to receive Title X Program funding. The rule also prohibits clinics receiving funds from referring patients to other doctors for abortions, and bars funded clinics from sharing space with abortion clinics.
The California attorney general's motion for a preliminary injunction against the rule argues that the rule "undermines clinically established standards of care, interferes with the patient-provider relationship, and contradicts core tenets of the Title X program."
Dr. Tanya Spirtos of the California Medical Association wrote in a declaration filed with the attorney general's motion that the Protect Life Rule "restricts physicians from speaking freely with their patients, violates core ethical standards, and undermines the physician-patient relationship."
Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning and preventative health services, including contraception, for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations. California has the largest Title X program in the country, serving nearly a quarter of all Title X patients nationwide, according to the attorney general's office.
Planned Parenthood, which provides abortions, is expected to lose about $60 million in federal funds under the new federal rule, which is set to go into effect during April.
Last year, Planned Parenthood received over $500 million in federal funds, about 10% of which came from the Title X program. The abortion chain is still eligible for federal funds that are not part of Title X.
Nearly two dozen states, led by Oregon and including California, are already suing the administration over the Protect Life Rule.
Becerra filed California's lawsuit against the US Department of Health and Human Services on March 4 in the Northern District Court of California in San Francisco.
The preliminary injunction, if granted, would block the rule's implementation while the court reviews the state's lawsuit.
The District Court is set to hear arguments on the preliminary injunction April 18.
Among other provisions, the Protect Life Rule requires that there be a physical and financial separation between recipients of Title X funds and facilities that perform abortions. Clinics that provide "nondirective counseling" about abortion can still receive funds.
Previous regulations, written during Bill Clinton's presidency, not only allowed for health clinics that were co-located with abortion clinics to receive funds, but also required that Title X recipients refer patients for abortions.
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), chairman of the Bipartisan Congressional Pro-Life Caucus, said the new rules move Title X closer to "its originally intended purpose'"the provision of family planning services, not abortions."
Pro-life advocates have welcomed the HHS rule change. Marjorie Dannefelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, praised the move, saying that it was targeted at abortion provision alone and would not reduce other family planning services by "a single dime."
"The Title X program was not intended to be a slush fund for abortion businesses like Planned Parenthood, which violently ends the lives of more than 332,000 unborn babies a year and receives almost $60 million a year in Title X taxpayer dollars," she said in a Feb. 22 statement.
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