A Federal Judge Just Blocked Trump’s Latest Attack on Abortion Rights

Goodbye “gag rule.”

President Donald Trump makes remarks during a meeting of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council on April 4, 2019.

President Donald Trump makes remarks during a meeting of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council on April 4, 2019Chip Somodevilla/Getty

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A federal judge in Washington has blocked President Trump’s attempt to bar health organizations that provide abortions—or even offer referrals for them—from receiving Title X federal family planning money. Judge Stanley Bastian issued a nationwide injunction on the rule, effective immediately.

The so-called gag rule, which was set to go into effect on May 3, would have stripped tens of millions of Title X federal family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood and other organizations. While the use of public funds to pay for abortions is already banned except in cases of life endangerment, rape, and incest, the new rule would have effectively “gagged” Title X health care providers by barring them from telling patients how to obtain abortions, and preventing organizations from performing abortions at the same facilities where they provide Title X services like mammograms, assistance for sexual assault survivors, and testing for sexually transmitted infections. 

In March, Washington state and a handful of reproductive rights and advocacy groups sued the Trump administration over the rule change. They argued that the gag rule interferes with patients’ rights to pregnancy counseling, creates obstacles to health care for low-income patients, and oversteps the Trump administration’s authority. In the past two weeks, federal judges in California and Oregon have also heard arguments against the new rule. During a preliminary hearing in Oregon on April 24, Judge Michael J. McShane suggested that he would block the rule, calling the restrictions a “ham-fisted approach to public health policy.” But he also indicated that he was reluctant to set “national health care’’ policy. In Washington, Judge Bastian had no such qualms.

Gov. Jay Inslee called the ruling “a major victory for millions of Americans.” Judge Bastian is expected to issue a written opinion early next week.

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