Abortion ‘Gag Rule’ Can Take Effect Court Says

In a major setback for women’s health-care providers, a federal appeals court allowed to take effect a family planning “gag rule” that prevents doctors and nurses informing women of abortion options and could cut up to $60 million in Title X funds from Planned Parenthood.

The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals panel Thursday lifted an injunction won by California, Oregon and Washington states that had prevented the revised regulations from going forward.

Women’s health care facilities and 21 state attorneys general filed lawsuits after the rule change was published in March, contending it would endanger the health of millions of women.

A lower court agreed and issued an injunction barring enforcement of the regulations.

Title X funds are used for services such as cancer screenings, HIV tests and birth control. Under the new rule, clinics would be ineligible for the funds if they provide abortions or make referrals for them.

In 1970, Congress enacted Title X to create a limited program from some types of pre-pregnancy family planning. Title X also said that none of the funds could be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.

Then in 1988, the Dept of Health and Human Services issued regulations forbidding Title X grantees from counseling or referring or otherwise encouraging abortion as a method of family planning. A few years later DHS suspended the regulations and allowed programs to provide abortion counseling and referrals “upon request.”

In 2019, DHS again revised the regulations going back to the 1988 gag rule. The states and the health groups challenged the rule.

The appeals panel lifted the injunction saying DHS and the public are likely to suffer “irreparable harm” if the injunction remained in place and that harm was greater than the harm to health providers and states.

The ruling was by Judges Edward Leavy, Connie Callahan and Carlos Bea, all Republican appointees to the court. Leavy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, Callahan and Bea by President George W. Bush.

Case: California v. Azar, No. 19-15974

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