Federal appeals court allows abortion-referral restriction to go into effect

A block on clinics in the federally-funded Title X family planning program from referring patients to abortion providers will take effect as challenges play out in the lower courts, a federal appeals court ruled on Monday in a win for the Trump administration.

Lower courts have consistently opposed the Department of Health and Human Services’ desire to block referrals, and reproductive rights groups have pushed back against the so-called “gag rule,” arguing that it has already harmed low-income women. The rule was challenged in federal courts in California, Oregon and Washington state last year, all of which blocked it. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that HHS is within its right to modify the program.

The appeals court has repeatedly given the rule the green light, upholding it in June, July and August. Planned Parenthood, a key provider that covered 40% of the program’s participants, opted to withdraw from the program after the 9th Circuit ruled in August that the regulations could go into effect.

Under current law, Title X funds already may not be used to pay for abortions, but the rule would require health care providers in Title X not to refer their patients for abortions elsewhere.

This story is breaking and will be updated.