A three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Trump administration on Thursday, temporarily allowing revised regulations to go into effect that prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from talking about abortion with patients or referring patients to abortion providers.
The panel of three Republican-appointed judges in the San Francisco-based court said the so-called abortion gag rule from the Department of Health and Human Services can go into effect pending the outcome of an appeal of three lower court rulings blocking the changes to Title X from going into effect.
“To find that the Final Rule’s enactment was arbitrary and capricious, the district courts generally ignored HHS’s explanations, reasoning, and predictions whenever they disagreed with the policy conclusions that flowed therefrom,” the judges wrote in a 25-page opinion.
“Title X is a limited grant program focused on providing pre-pregnancy family planning services – it does not fund medical care for pregnant women,” the opinion adds. “The Final Rule can reasonably be viewed as a choice to subsidize certain medical services and not others.”
A federal judge in Oregon in April had blocked the rule, which was set to take effect in early May.
US District Judge Michael J. McShane called the federal restriction “a ham-fisted approach to health policy” and said it “prevents doctors from behaving like informed professionals.”
The Title X program serves about 4 million people a year, according to HHS. Critics say the regulations would mostly affect communities of color, low-income people, the uninsured and rural residents.
The three-judge panel also argued that the public interest would be “irreparably harmed” if the nationwide injunction blocking the gag rule were allowed to remain in effect.
“Because HHS and the public interest would be irreparably harmed absent a stay, harms to Plaintiffs from a stay will be comparatively minor, and HHS is likely to prevail in its challenge of the preliminary injunction orders before a merits panel of this court (which is set to hear the cases on an expedited basis), we conclude that a stay of the district courts’ preliminary injunction orders pending appeal is proper,” the opinion states.