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U.S. judge in Washington state blocks new Trump abortion rule

The lawsuits said the rules were a transparent attack on Planned Parenthood and would curb access to contraception and breast and cervical cancer screening.
Image: Bob Ferguson
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson speaks at a news conference announcing a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's Title X "gag rule" in Seattle on Feb. 25, 2019.Elaine Thompson / AP file

SEATTLE — A federal judge in Washington state has blocked new Trump administration rules that could cut off federal funding for health care providers who refer patients for an abortion.

The Washington attorney general’s office said Thursday that Judge Stanley Bastian in Yakima granted the injunction following about three hours of argument in a case brought by the state and abortion rights groups. The ruling came two days after a federal judge in Oregon said he intended to at least partially block the rules.

The lawsuits said the administration’s new rules were a transparent attack on Planned Parenthood and would curb access to care such as contraception and breast and cervical cancer screening for millions of low-income people.

A coalition of states announced in March that they would sue to block therule, which 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 new policy, announced in February, 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.