States ready lawsuits to block new Trump administration abortion policy

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a challenge Monday, while a coalition of other states said they would sue, as well.
Image: Pro-choice activists gather in support of Planned Parenthood during a demonstration against a Trump administration Title X rule change in New York on Feb. 25, 2019.
Pro-choice activists gather in support of Planned Parenthood during a demonstration against a Trump administration Title X rule change in New York on Feb. 25, 2019.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

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By Jane C. Timm

A coalition of 20 states and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced a pair of lawsuits Monday aimed at blocking a new federal rule that bars taxpayer-funded clinics from referring patients for abortions.

The new Trump administration rule would steer millions of dollars from the federal family planning program -- Title X -- away from providers such as Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions, and toward health care providers with religious affiliations. Critics decried the policy as a "gag rule," while the president’s conservative base cheered it.

The attorneys general of Oregon and New York led the group of states, as well as the District of Columbia, in announcing their lawsuit Monday.

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"What this new rule means is that providers who receive Title X funding will have to decide whether they will refuse the funding or 'cave' to the requirements of this new rule. Neither is a good or fair option for women and families who often have no other access to medical care," Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said.

"These new rules are antithetical to the purpose of Title X and will hurt millions of Americans," New York Attorney General Letitia James said.

Becerra, one of President Donald Trump's chief critics, announced a separate suit at a news conference Monday alongside Planned Parenthood and a slew of California leaders.

"The Trump-Pence administration's sabotage of Title X services that millions of women across our nation rely on is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous to women’s health. President Trump treats women and their care as if this were 1920, not 2019," Becerra said.

The new policy was announced last month and implemented Monday, after the rule was published in the Federal Register.

The rule requires providers who receive federal funding to have “clear financial and physical separation” from abortion providers, essentially preventing organizations like Planned Parenthood that use non-federal dollars to provide abortions from receiving Title X funding for their other programs. Federal regulations already bar federal dollars from being spent on abortions.

The new Trump administration policy also bars providers from referring patients for abortions.

Title X is the nation's only federal program solely focused on family planning, costing taxpayers $286 million last year. It funds access to contraceptive services, supplies and counseling, prioritizing care for low-income families.