A federal appeals court delivered a setback Thursday to Planned Parenthood by lifting injunctions on the Trump administration’s rule prohibiting family-planning funds for facilities that perform or support abortions.
The ruling by a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said that keeping in place the injunctions issued by California, Oregon and Washington would force the Department of Health and Human Services to violate its interpretation of federal law.
“Absent a stay, HHS will be forced to allow taxpayer dollars to be spent in a manner that it has concluded violates the law, as well as the Government’s important policy interest in ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not go to fund or subsidize abortions,” the judges said in a 3-0 opinion.
The Ninth Circuit is known as the nation’s most liberal appeals court, but all three panel judges — Carlos Bea, Consuelo Callahan and Edward Leavy — were appointed by Republican presidents.
Nearly two dozen blue states and pro-choice groups, challenged the administration’s February overhaul of Title X grants for family planning, which prohibits grants to clinics that “perform, promote, refer to, or support abortion as a method of family planning.”
The rule also requires “clear financial and physical separation” between abortion and other services, and allows grantees to offer counseling without referring to abortion, clearing the way for grants to pro-life pregnancy centers.
In March, the Obria Group of California became the first pro-life pregnancy center to win a Title X grant, receiving $5.1 million over three years, while Planned Parenthood affiliates saw their grant funding reduced by about $7 million.
Even with the cut, Planned Parenthood health centers still received $48.4 million in multi-year grants, representing a small percentage of the organization’s annual half-billion outlay in federal funding. The department awarded $286 million in Title X grants, which serve about four million low-income patients nationwide.
Still, the Democratic National Committee blasted the court, declaring that the decision meant “Trump’s rule to strip Title X funding from health care providers like Planned Parenthood can take effect nationwide.”
“This is a declaration of all-out war on women’s access to health care,” said DNC women’s media director Elizabeth Renda in a statement.
Sen. Kirsten Gilibrand, New York Democrat and 2020 presidential hopeful, tweeted that the “Trump administration’s Title X gag rule will deny access to basic reproductive health care for millions of people. I call that a violation of human rights. We will fight back.”
Meanwhile, Justice Department spokesperson Kelly Laco praised the court’s decision to remove the injunction, which prevented the rule from taking effect as scheduled May 3.
“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit has cleared the way for this important executive branch action to take effect while our appeals are pending,” Ms. Laco said in a statement. “The Department of Justice’s position is supported by long-standing Supreme Court precedent and we are confident we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”
The conservative Family Research Council pointed out that the administration “did not cut a single cent from the $286 million Congress appointed for #TitleX.”
Alyssa Farah, press secretary for Vice President Mike Pence, applauded the Ninth Circuit decision.
“Americans overwhelmingly oppose using tax dollars to pay for abortion, and the Ninth Circuit’s decision respects their values while also honoring the intent of federal law,” she said.”The Trump administration is the most pro-life ever, and we’re proud to be directing Title X funds to organizations prioritizing women.”