AG Ferguson asks court to block Trump’s family planning “gag rule”

Motion for preliminary injunction asks the court to block the rule before its effective date

YAKIMA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a motion March 22, 2019 for preliminary injunction asking a federal court to block the Trump Administration’s family planning “gag rule” before the rule goes into effect. The rule impacts Title X, the federal funding program for reproductive healthcare and family planning services.

The motion, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, asks the judge to block the rule while Ferguson’s lawsuit against it is pending. Ferguson filed the lawsuit on March 5. The rule is currently scheduled to go into effect on May 3. Ferguson’s motion asks the court to block the rule before this date. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for Thursday, April 25.

“This rule is a transparent attack on Planned Parenthood that disproportionately harms low-income women in rural Washington,” Ferguson said. “It will shutter clinics that provide almost 90 percent of Title X services in Washington, jeopardizing healthcare access for tens of thousands of Washingtonians. It inserts politics into the doctor-patient relationship. It should not go into effect before the court has a chance to make a decision.”

The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), a national organization representing publicly funded family planning providers and administrators, filed a separate lawsuit challenging this rule. This lawsuit has been consolidated with Ferguson’s lawsuit for scheduling purposes.

"The Title X rule is designed to destroy our nation’s family planning provider network and deprive millions of poor and low-income people of access to the contraception and other preventive health care they need,” said Clare Coleman, President & CEO of NFPRHA. “This preliminary injunction would stop the rule from going into effect. We are proud to partner with Attorney General Ferguson to fight this unlawful rule.”

The Trump Administration’s new rule imposes a “gag” on Title X providers that prohibits them from referring their patients to abortion providers. It also requires Title X providers to refer each pregnant patient into a prenatal care program, regardless of the patient’s wishes or the provider’s medical judgment.

The rule also requires clinics that also provide any abortion care or referrals to create a physical wall between their family planning functions and their abortion services, requiring separate entrances and exits, treatment facilities, and personnel as well as duplicate health care records. Clinics have one year to comply with costly, time-consuming and counterproductive physical separation requirements, which will be impossible for many clinics.

In order to grant the preliminary injunction, the judge must find that Ferguson’s lawsuit against the Administration is likely to succeed and that the rule, if not blocked, would cause irreparable harm to Washington state and its residents. A preliminary injunction is not the judge’s final decision — its purpose is to block the rule until the case is ultimately decided.

If the rule is not blocked, it will leave 21 Washington counties without a Title X provider at all, 11 of those in Eastern Washington. As a result, some Washingtonians will need to travel hundreds of miles to receive family planning care, while others will lose access altogether.

The rule will force out of the program health care professionals who provide nearly 90 percent of Title X family planning services to Washington patients, keeping thousands of vulnerable Washingtonians from reasonably accessing contraception, cancer and STI screening and other family planning care.

In Washington, 91,284 patients received care through Title X in 2017. More than half of these patients were at or below the federal poverty line. The Washington State Department of Health estimates that services provided to these patients prevented over 18,000 unintended pregnancies and over 6,000 abortions, resulting in savings for the state of more than $113 million.

Assistant Attorneys General Jeff Sprung, Kristin Beneski and Paul Crisalli are handling the case for Washington. More information about Washington’s case is available here.

Attorney General Ferguson has previously taken on the Trump Administration in an effort to protect women’s reproductive rights. Ferguson joined three other attorneys general in July to urge the Trump Administration to withdraw the proposed rule. Last year, Ferguson filed a lawsuit to block the Administration’s rules undermining women’s access to contraception. Two federal judges temporarily halted the rules’ implementation in separate cases across the nation.

Ferguson has filed 34 lawsuits against the Trump Administration and has not lost a case. Ferguson now has 17 legal victories against the federal government since President Trump assumed office. Nine of those cases are finished and cannot be appealed. The Trump Administration has appealed or may appeal the other eight, which include lawsuits involving Dreamers and 3D-printed guns.

 

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