Sarah Franklin of Portland holds a sign in support of Planned Parenthood at a rally in Portland's Monument Square in this 2015 file photo.

Abortion rights advocates in Maine have submitted an emergency request for the District Court of Maine to block federal program changes that would prevent certain facilities from providing abortions and their doctors from telling their patients about abortion services.

Opponents have called the program changes, supported by the administration of President Donald Trump, a “gag rule.” The change would strip federal Title X family planning program funds from any facility that performs abortions or provides abortion referrals.

The rules have been challenged in the courts, but the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decided Friday the Trump administration can withhold the funding while the legal battles play out.

[Trump’s abortion ‘gag rule’ challenged by federal lawsuit in Maine]

The Center for Reproductive Rights filed the emergency request to re-block the program changes on behalf of Maine Family Planning, the state’s only Title X grantee.

The Center said Friday the rules, if enacted, would force all but one of Maine Family Planning’s 18 clinics to cease abortion services.

“The Trump Administration is seeking to shut down abortion access and gag healthcare providers from discussing abortion options with their patients,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Allowing this gag rule to go into effect will also close family planning clinics, leaving low income communities with limited options and in many cases no healthcare at all.”

[Subscribe to our free morning newsletter and get the latest headlines in your inbox]

In Maine, 23,800 low-income people receive Title X services every year, according to the Center.

Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar called the 9th Circuit decision “a major step toward the Trump administration being able to ensure that all Title X projects … do not support abortion as a method of family planning,” the Washington Post reported.

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.