Court rules Trump administration can go ahead with Title X 'gag rule'

An 11-judge panel has ruled that the Trump administration can go ahead with changes to the Title X family planning program.

An en banc panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit Thursday refused to block the administration from enforcing the Title X “gag rule,” opposed by many physician organizations, according to a Planned Parenthood announcement.

“This is devastating,” Planned Parenthood said in a Twitter post.

In a 7-4 vote, the appeals court ruled that a June 20 ruling by a three-judge panel would be allowed to stand lifting injunctions from lower courts that blocked enforcement of the rule, which makes clinics ineligible for Title X funds if they provide abortion referrals, according to Reuters.

The American Medical Association (AMA) joined Planned Parenthood in filing a lawsuit suit to stop enforcement of the Title X rule, calling it a “gag rule” on what doctors and other clinicians can say to patients.

“Trump’s gag rule makes it illegal for healthcare providers in the Title X program to refer patients for abortion, and also blocks access to care through the program at Planned Parenthood by imposing cost-prohibitive and unnecessary physical separation requirements,” Planned Parenthood said in its announcement about the newest court ruling.

The organization, considered a target of the final rule, said it will continue its efforts to restore the nationwide preliminary injunction which would keep the administration from implementing the rule.

“This is devastating news for the millions of people who rely on Title X for cancer screenings, HIV tests, affordable birth control and other critical primary and preventive care,” said Leana Wen, M.D., president and CEO of Planned Parenthood.

The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, which also asked the court to restore the preliminary injunction blocking the rule, said in an announcement the appeals court was charting “a dangerous path” for the Title X program.

“We are deeply disturbed by today’s court order, which puts the nation’s family planning program at perilous risk,” said Clare Coleman, the group’s president and CEO, in an emailed statement.

However, Audrey Sandusky, director of advocacy and communications for the group, said it remains to be seen what the court ruling will mean, because the Department of Health and Human Services has yet to issue any guidance to providers on how they need to comply with the rule. 

In addition to the AMA, the rule has been opposed by major medical associations including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Physician groups have said the rule will prevent them from talking to patients about all their options, including referring women for abortions under the family planning program.