Federal judge rules in favor of AMA lawsuit, says he will block Trump restriction on abortion clinic funding

A federal judge in Oregon said on April 23 that he would grant a preliminary injunction to block the Trump administration from withholding Title X funding from family planning organizations offering abortion services.

U.S. District Judge Michael J. McShane indicated late Tuesday night he would issue a formal opinion soon, after he held a hearing on a pair of lawsuits, one filed by the American Medical Association and Planned Parenthood and another filed by a coalition of 20 states, according to an AMA report.  

The AMA filed the lawsuit in early March, saying the rule by the Trump administration that would revise regulations around the Title X program to block funding to groups that provide abortion referrals would interfere with the patient-physician relationship. The rule was set to take effect on May 3.

“Judge McShane got it exactly right when he called the new Title X rule a ‘ham-fisted’ approach to healthcare. The judge repeatedly asked how the new gag rule would improve health outcomes. The government was unable to answer,” AMA president Barbara L. McAneny, M.D., said in an emailed statement.

“The new rule would have placed obstacles to healthcare for low-income patients. We are pleased the judge shared the AMA’s concern about the physician-patient relationship that the rule would have jeopardized,” she said.

RELATED: Trump administration releases Title X rule restricting abortion clinic funding

The AMA, the country’s largest physician organization, said the Title X rule would have placed a “gag rule” on doctors dictating what they can say to patients in the Title X program about family planning.

It’s not clear whether the preliminary injunction would apply nationwide or only in the states that had joined in the lawsuit. The rule would strip funding from any participating family planning organization that offers abortions or refers patients to abortion providers.

“This is a victory for patients and doctors in this country,” said Leana Wen, M.D., president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in a statement.

However, Wen said the relief is preliminary and vowed to continue to fight the Trump administration “in court and in Congress to ensure our patients’ health and rights are protected.”