Judge will decide soon on blocking Trump administration abortion ‘gag rule’
A federal judge Wednesday did not say how he would rule on a challenge to Trump administration regulations that would limit what federally funded health care providers can tell patients about accessing abortion services. But during a hearing on the challenge in federal court in Bangor, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker said he would decide soon.
Attorneys for Maine Family Planning, the state’s only direct recipient of the federal Title X funds, are seeking an injunction that would block the rule from taking effect as scheduled on May 3. The hearing before Walker came the morning after a federal judge in Oregon considering a separate but similar legal challenge against the rule said he would grant a preliminary injunction blocking it.
Many of his questions focused on whether the rule that requires separate facilities for reproductive health care services and abortion services would force clinics that receive Title X funds to close, which would force patients to travel more than 100 miles to access those services.
Department of Justice attorneys countered that the rule is about how federal funds are used, not about limiting access to abortion or reproductive health care. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services expects that other providers would step in to fill the gap or Maine Family Planning would find funding elsewhere.
Federal law prohibits federal funds from being used to perform abortions. Title X funds pay for family planning and other preventive health care services for low-income and uninsured people.
It is one of a handful of legal actions pending in federal courts around the country seeking to keep what opponents have called a “gag rule” from going into effect, according to George Hill, president and CEO of Maine Family Planning.
The plan also would require that abortion services be separated physically from other reproductive health care services — a provision referred to as the “separation” rule.
Title X recipients that violated the rule could lose their federal funds.
McShane called the so-called “gag rule” a “ham-fisted approach to public health policy.”
Oregon joined with 19 other states, Washington, D.C., Planned Parenthood affiliates and the American Medical Association to file the legal challenge in U.S. District Court in Oregon.
Three similar challenges are pending in federal courts around the country.
If Walker or other federal judges in other jurisdictions refuse to issue injunctions, the U.S. Supreme Court most likely would have to settle the issue.
In December, Walker rejected a challenge to the constitutionality of ranked-choice voting launched by former U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin following his loss to Democrat Jared Golden.
Correction: A previous version of this story misidentified Emily Nestler in a photo caption.
This article originally appeared on www.bangordailynews.com.