Congress

Court allows administration family planning rule

The move is a blow to Planned Parenthood and abortion rights groups

Court ruling will likely please anti-abortion groups seeking to restrict funding for abortion providers. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit said Thursday it would allow a Trump administration rule to take effect that would prohibit certain providers like Planned Parenthood from being eligible for federal family planning funds.

The move is a blow to abortion rights groups that have been fighting the policy in court. The Health and Human Services rule would prevent any provider of abortions or abortion referrals from qualifying for federal family planning funding under the program known as Title X.

The court in its decision denied a request for an emergency stay while the full court proceeds with its deliberations in the case.

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“The en banc court will proceed expeditiously to rehear and reconsider the merits of the Appellants’ motions for stay of the district courts’ preliminary injunction orders pending consideration of the appeals on the merits. Until further order of the Court, no further briefing is required of the parties for the en banc court’s reconsideration of the three-judge panel order,” the court document reads.

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Current law prohibits federal funding from being used for abortions except in rare circumstances, but conservatives have pressed for the rule to further separate abortion from birth control services.

Liberal groups say the change is unnecessary and will decrease access to reproductive care, especially for low-income women and women of color who are more likely to visit Title X clinics.

Experts have speculated that the case could eventually be appealed to the Supreme Court. The high court in 1991 upheld a similar rule in Rust v. Sullivan, though it never went into effect.

In late June, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit granted a stay that would temporarily block three different preliminary injunctions that halted the rule in California and nationally.

But last week, the court temporarily reinstated the national preliminary injunction while the emergency stay was under consideration.

Planned Parenthood, which receives federal Title X funding and has said it cares for 41 percent of Title X patients, would likely be the most affected organization.

Its president, Leana Wen, said that the organization will continue fighting the rule. It is a plaintiff in one of the lawsuits challenging the changes to the program.

“While we are incredibly concerned the panel did not recognize the harm of the Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule, we will not stop fighting for the millions across the country in need for care,” said Wen. “Planned Parenthood will keep fighting to block this dangerous rule that allows the government to censor our doctors and nurses from doing their jobs.”

Other liberal advocacy groups including NARAL Pro-Choice America and Physicians for Reproductive Health also blasted the court’s decision. Conservative groups praised it.

“We are greatly encouraged to see the 9th Circuit rule in favor of allowing President Trump’s Protect Life Rule to take effect while it continues to be litigated,” said Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “Similar regulations were upheld by the Supreme Court nearly three decades ago. This is wonderful news, and we are more optimistic than ever that the Trump administration’s case will succeed.”

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