Once again, a federal court has stepped in, wisely, to stop the Trump administration from crippling the delivery of reproductive healthcare services to women.
A federal judge on Thursday issued a preliminary injunction to suspend ridiculous new rules the administration was about to apply to the government’s Title X family planning program. The rules would have gone into effect on May 3 had U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian in Spokane, Washington, not issued a nationwide injunction against them. The ultimate fate of the rules will be decided once the lawsuit is fully argued in court.
Of course, this is ultimately all about abortion and about trying to defund Planned Parenthood. Or more specifically, it’s about the Department of Health and Human Services (now stocked by President Donald Trump with abortion opponents) trying to find ways to block women’s access to abortion. And it always ends up being low-income women’s access to abortion.
The much-respected Title X program provides contraception, breast exams, screening for sexually transmitted disease and some basic healthcare to millions of people in underserved and rural communities. It’s been around for almost 50 years and has survived conservative and liberal administrations. Consider this: It was signed into law by President Richard Nixon.
Planned Parenthood provides healthcare to 40 percent of all the patients in Title X programs. Planned Parenthood and some of the other providers that get Title X funds also offer abortions. But they do it with other money. By longstanding federal statute, no federal funds can go to abortions.
For most of the time that Title X has been around, funding recipients have just had to financially separate their abortion services from their Title X-funded healthcare services. Under the new rules, they would have to use separate offices to perform abortions, and they couldn’t even offer a pregnant woman a straightforward referral to an abortion clinic if she asked for one. But they would be required to offer a referral to a pregnancy clinic even if the patient did not ask for one.
The new rules would essentially “gag” healthcare providers from offering the comprehensive medical advice they felt was necessary. That’s a dangerous and unethical trampling on healthcare providers’ ability to take care of their patients as they see fit.
Bastian wasn’t the only judge who found the new rules legally suspect. Two days before he issued his order, a federal judge in Oregon stated he intended to enjoin the new rules, although it’s unclear whether he planned to issue an injunction that would apply nationwide.
Now that Bastian has put the rules on hold, the courts need to throw them out altogether.
Carla Hall is a Los Angeles Times editorial board member who writes about homelessness, reproductive rights and animal welfare, among other topics.