Saying it imposes restrictions on the patient-physician relationship, the American Medical Association (AMA) filed a lawsuit Tuesday to block the Trump administration rule that would restrict abortion clinic funding.
The country’s largest physician organization filed the lawsuit (PDF) in the United States District Court in Oregon, asking the court to block the new rule released Friday that revises regulations around the Title X family planning program to block funding to groups that provide abortion referrals.
The rule would decimate the Title X program and limit the medical advice physicians can give their Title X patients, the AMA said in an announcement. The Oregon Medical Association and Planned Parenthood Federation of America joined the lawsuit.
The AMA was not alone in filing legal action to block the rule. On Monday, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the state filed a federal lawsuit in San Francisco to stop the law from taking effect, and 20 other Democratic-led states said they would also file a challenge, according to the Associated Press.
The AMA contends the rule would violate patients’ rights under its Code of Medical Ethics, as it would "force doctors to violate their obligation to give honest and informed advice, would withhold federal family planning funding from entities that provide critical medical services to vulnerable populations and would harm millions of patients who rely on Title X for their reproductive health."
Largely seen as a direct attack on Planned Parenthood, the largest reproductive health and abortion provider in the U.S., the final rule requires providers that receive Title X funding to maintain "physical and financial separation" from an abortion provider.
“Because of the administration’s overreach and interference in healthcare decision making, physicians will be prohibited from having open, frank conversations with their patients about all their healthcare options. This blatant violation of patients’ rights under the Code of Medical Ethics is untenable,” said AMA President Barbara L. McAneny, M.D.
“The new rule imposes a government gag rule on what information physicians can provide to their patients. The administration wants to allow Title X clinics not to provide full information to patients about all of their healthcare options and block physicians from providing appropriate referrals for care," said McAneny, who wrote a commentary on the AMA website on the implications of the proposed changes on patients.
As a relentless ally for physicians, we've filed a lawsuit to block the Administration's harmful #TitleX rule. We won't sit quietly while the government attempts to restrict open and free communication between patients and physicians. #LetDocsSpeak https://t.co/Npjs4wPye8 pic.twitter.com/WdK0z5Oz74— AMA (@AmerMedicalAssn) March 5, 2019
The AMA is not the only medical group to oppose the new rule. A group of 19 women’s healthcare provider groups, medical organizations and physician leaders, representing more than 4.3 million healthcare providers, spoke out against the new regulation, saying it disregards the expertise of the medical and scientific community and evidence-based standards. The groups included the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Physicians.
In the announcement about the lawsuit, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Oregon Medical Association said the new rule will be bad for patients.
“The Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule is unethical, illegal and dangerous, which is why Planned Parenthood is suing to protect patients’ rights and access to healthcare,” said Leana Wen, M.D, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
The Trump administration wants to gag doctors and dismantle Title X, the nation’s program for affordable birth control and reproductive health care.— Planned Parenthood (@PPFA) March 5, 2019
So we’re suing w/ @AmerMedicalAssn to fight back on behalf of our doctors, nurses, and patients. #NoGagRule pic.twitter.com/PDy19W6hVa
Fred Williams, M.D., president of the Oregon Medical Association, said the medical community there is “deeply troubled” by government rules that intrude on the practice of medicine and the physician-patient relationship.
“Title X has allowed the provision of quality contraceptive and pregnancy care to millions of women who are financially struggling. An irreplaceable part of this care consists of providing competent and complete medical information about all of the options available, and this rule imposes a gag order on physicians fulfilling their roles as trusted consultants in reproductive health,” he said.
The Trump administration has said it expected legal challenges to its rule.