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Federal judge blocks Trump administration from imposing new rule on family planning clinics in California

Los Angeles Times logo Los Angeles Times 4/27/2019 Maura Dolan
a close up of a wooden table © Getty Images / Ingram Publishing

A federal judge in San Francisco decided Friday to block the Trump administration from denying federal funds to family planning clinics in California that make abortion referrals.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Edward Chen followed a similar decision by a federal judge in Washington state to bar the government from imposing the new restrictions there.

A judge in Oregon also has indicated he would rule similarly in a challenge brought in that state.

Chen said the new rule, which was to take effect next Friday, “commands medical professionals to provide incomplete and misleading information to women seeking to terminate their pregnancies.”

The funding at stake is delivered under a 1970 law, Title X of the Public Health Service Act.

It was intended to make family planning services available to the poor and those in isolated rural regions. The funds have never been allowed to be used to pay for or subsidize abortions.

In March, the Trump administration added more restrictions. It said clinics that make abortion referrals would no longer be entitled to the federal funds and recipients could not share office space with abortion providers.

The new rule also would require clinics to refer pregnant women to a healthcare provider for prenatal health services, even if the client wanted an abortion.

Critics said the restrictions were intended to steer women to faith-based family planning services.

California, which serves 1 million patients annually under the Title X program, and Essential Access Health Inc., a nonprofit group that administers the state’s Title X program, sued to block the rule in California.

In issuing a preliminary injunction, Chen said the restrictions would “compromise providers’ ability to deliver effective care and force them to obstruct and delay patients with pressing medical needs.”

“Abortion is a time-sensitive procedure,” Chen wrote. Medical risks and costs rise with delay, he said.

The new rule “erects barrier after barrier between patients trying to make an informed decision about whether to continue their pregnancies and their clinicians,” Chen said.

If the rule were to take effect, many providers would drop out of the program, and the amount and quality of family planning services in California would decline, he said.

Chen did not issue a nationwide injunction, saying the challengers were both based in California and had not cited sufficient evidence of harm in other states.

“Judge Chen’s ruling affirms that in 2019, denying women the medical information and services they want and need is a losing proposition,” said Julie Rabinovitz, president and chief executive of Essential Access Health.

The U.S. Department of Justice could not be reached for comment.

maura.dolan@latimes.com

Twitter: @mauradolan

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