Appeals court rules against Trump administration in abortion ‘gag rule’

President Donald J. Trump delivers remarks during a press conference Friday, Jan. 3, 2020, at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Sept. 4 (UPI) — A federal appeals court on Thursday ruled against a Trump administration rule denying federal funds to family planning clinics that refer patients for abortions.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling blocks the enforcement of the federal rule in Maryland, but is likely to set up a Supreme Court challenge.

The appeals court, based in Richmond, Va., said the Trump administration’s rule revision “failed to recognize and address the ethical concerns of literally every major medical organization in the country.”

The panel also said the government “arbitrarily estimated” what clinics would have to spend to comply with the rules, which includes, in some cases, constructing new facilities to separate abortion services from other medical services.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued the revised rule in 2019, banning family planning providers that receive Title X funding from abortion referrals. Opponents, including Planned Parenthood, likened it to a “gag rule.”

The government it would require “clear financial and physical separation” between Title X-compliant facilities and those that provide abortions or abortion referrals.

In February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the Trump administration in a challenge by Planned Parenthood, saying the rule allows family clinics to mention abortion but not to refer or encourage it, a “reasonable interpretation” of federal law which is not “arbitrary and capricious” as plaintiffs argued.

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