COLUMBUS, Ohio — (AP) — Federally funded family planning clinics can continue to make abortion referrals for now, a federal court ruled Tuesday, in a setback for a dozen Republican attorneys general who sued to reinstate a Trump-era ban on the practice. .
The 6th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati has denied a request by the 12 states to suspend the rules of the federal government’s family planning program while their case is heard. States were eager to halt implementation before the next round of federal grants began in March.
At issue are new rules from Democratic President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services that have returned the federal family planning program, called Title X, to the way it operated under the Obama administration, when clinics could refer women wishing to have an abortion to a provider.
The rules that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who filed the lawsuit, wants to permanently restore were put in place in 2019 under former President Donald Trump, a Republican. One required that federally funded family planning clinics be physically and financially independent from abortion clinics. The other asked them to refrain from referring patients for abortions.
The states joining the challenge are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia. Not all states participate in Title X.
Yost argues that the rules were designed as firewalls between family planning clinics, which can receive taxpayer funding, and their abortion services, which cannot.
U.S. District Judge Timothy Black dismissed that argument in a ruling last month, refusing a preliminary injunction that would have temporarily suspended the rules. The 12 states appealed his decision to the 6th Circuit, which said they had failed to prove they would be irreparably harmed by the rules taking effect.
Black said opponents have centered their case on a political disagreement, not a legal one.
“The principle that money is fungible must have theoretical limits, otherwise no government appropriation for specific purposes could ever be realizable,” Black wrote on Dec. 29. “Title X no more subsidizes abortions than funding a homeless shelter subsidizes drug addiction.”
The Biden administration’s reversal of the Trump-era rules in October came as political and legal battles over abortion escalate amid budding Republican efforts to overturn the historic Roe v. Wade on the Court. Supreme of the United States.
Yost stressed that his lawsuit did not challenge the right to abortion as guaranteed by Roe.
The prohibition on Title X-funded family planning clinics from using public funds for abortions was contained in the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, Yost said. Black pointed out that the Trump-era rules had been in place for less than two years, during which time 1.5 million fewer patients participated in Title X-funded services.
The program makes more than $250 million a year available to clinics to provide birth control and basic health care services, primarily to low-income women, many of whom are from minority communities.
The rules established under Trump have prompted a massive outflow from service providers affiliated with Planned Parenthood, as well as several states and other independent organizations.
Groups representing the clinics have said they hope the overthrow of the Biden administration will lead some 1,300 local facilities that left in protest to return.
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