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Courts temporarily block Title X changes


 

Two federal judges have temporarily barred the Trump administration from making changes to the Title X program that would restrict funding from clinics that provide abortion counseling or that refer patients for abortion services.

Set of scales with American flag in the background jsmith/iStockphoto

U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian for the District of Eastern Washington on April 25 approved a temporary nationwide ban against the program changes in response to legal a challenge by Washington state. The same day, U.S. District Judge for the District of Oregon Michael J. McShane also preliminarily barred the restrictions from taking effect in response to a legal challenge by the American Medical Association and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Judge McShane called the program restrictions “arbitrary and capricious,” and wrote that the rules ignore comprehensive, ethical, and evidence-based health care, and impermissibly interfere with the patient-doctor relationship. Judge Bastian agreed, writing in his order that the plaintiffs have demonstrated that the restrictions violate the central purpose of Title X, which is to equalize access to comprehensive, evidence-based, and voluntary family planning.

“Plaintiffs have demonstrated they are likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of a preliminary injunction by presenting facts and argument that the final rule may or likely will: seriously disrupt or destroy the existing network of Title X providers in both the State of Washington and throughout the entire nation,” Judge Bastian wrote in his order.

Changes to the Title X program – scheduled to take effect May 3 – would have made health clinics ineligible for Title X funding if they offer, promote, or support abortion as a method of family planning. Title X grants generally go to health centers that provide reproductive health care – such as STD-testing, cancer screenings, and contraception – to low-income families. Under the rule, the government would withdraw financial assistance to clinics if they allow counseling or referrals associated with abortion, regardless of whether the money is used for other health care services.

HHS officials said that the final rule will provide for clear financial and physical separation between Title X and non–Title X activities, reduce confusion on the part of Title X clinics and the public about permissible Title X activities, and improve program transparency by requiring more complete reporting by grantees about their partnerships with referral agencies.

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