Trump abortion referral 'gag rule' survives demand for emergency halt

by Reuters
Thursday, 11 July 2019 18:39 GMT

By Jonathan Stempel

July 11 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Thursday rejected emergency bids to temporarily set aside its recent decision allowing the Trump administration to enforce a "gag rule" that could strip Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers of federal funding for family planning.

By a 7-4 vote, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals let stand its June 20 decision lifting injunctions blocking enforcement of the rule, which makes clinics ineligible for Title X family planning funds if they provide abortion referrals.

An emergency stay had been sought by some abortion rights advocates, including Planned Parenthood, and by 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. Planned Parenthood did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

California, Oregon and Washington, which had won the injunctions in lower courts, want the appeals court to revisit its decision, and the court is doing so on an expedited basis.

All seven judges in Thursday's majority were appointed by Republican presidents, including two by Trump, while the four dissenters were appointed by Democratic presidents. All three judges on the original panel are Republican appointees.

The rule largely restored a rule created in 1988 and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1991, was meant to fulfill Trump's pledge to end federal support for Planned Parenthood, which receives an estimated one-fifth of all Title X funds.

According to the June 20 decision, the rule was a "reasonable interpretation" of Title X, and supported the government's "important policy interest" in ensuring that taxpayer dollars not fund or subsidize abortions.

Critics said enforcing the rule would cause irreparable harm by keeping clinics from providing critical healthcare, including non-abortion services, especially to poor people and minorities.

While the 9th Circuit is widely considered among the most liberal federal appeals courts, Trump has appointed six of its judges and won Senate confirmation for a seventh. The White House has made seating conservative federal judges a priority.

The cases in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals include California v Azar et al, No. 19-15974; Oregon et al v Azar et al, No. 19-35386; and Washington et al v Azar et al, No. 19-35394. (Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York Editing by Susan Thomas)

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