Groups file emergency petitions to reinstate injunction to block Title X 'gag rule'

Legal Review
Opponents have filed emergency petitions to keep HHS from implementing a final rule on the Title X program. (iStock-BrianAJackson)

The legal battle over the controversial Title X rule continued today, as opponents filed emergency petitions to reinstate injunctions that had blocked the rule from taking effect.

The National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, said today that it filed an emergency petition to the en banc court, a panel of 11 judges of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, asking it to reverse last Thursday’s ruling that allowed the government to implement a final rule making changes to the Title X family planning program.

The Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association, Washington state’s attorney general and other groups that had opposed the Title X final rule also filed a similar emergency motion, NFPRHA said.

The groups are seeking emergency relief asking the court to reverse the decision by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit that set aside preliminary injunctions granted by lower district courts in Washington, Oregon and California which had prevented the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from implementing the Trump administration’s final rule on Title X.

NFPRHA, which represents family planning providers and administrators, had filed suit in Washington to block the final rule.

“Last night, we took a critical step in our legal efforts to stop the Trump administration from destroying the integrity of the nation’s family planning program, which provides contraceptive and preventive healthcare to 4 million low-income people every year,” Clare Coleman, the group’s president and CEO, said in a statement today.

RELATED: HHS official on Title X change—'It is not a gag rule' on physicians

“At this point, HHS has the green light to enforce the rule, which means that all Title X providers will be faced with two bad choices: withhold critical information and limit care to patients or leave the program and be less able or unable to care for poor and low-income people in their community,” she said.

The Ninth Circuit judges ruled last week the Title X rule can take effect while lawsuits seeking to stop its implementation play out. It granted an HHS motion for a stay pending appeal of the three preliminary injunctions issued in Oregon, Washington and California.

The AMA and other physician groups have opposed the final rule calling it a ‘gag rule’ that prevents doctors and other clinicians from referring patients to an abortion provider.

At a House hearing last week, an HHS official defended the final rule and said it was not a gag rule on physicians.

But Coleman said the rule will prevent Title X providers from referring patients for abortion care. It will also mean that Title X providers are not obligated to provide medically approved contraceptive methods and services. All providers in the program will be forced to encourage family participation for minors in a health visit, eroding the program’s confidentiality guarantee for patients, she said.

HHS has said the new final rule enforces laws already on the books and will ensure Title X programs comply with the statute that requires they not support abortion as a method of family planning.