The 82-page opinion dismissed the concerns of three lower courts on the West Coast that did not rule on the merits of the change in the family planning program, known as Title X, but which were leery enough of it that each issued an injunction last spring preventing it from taking effect.
Monday’s ruling is the first substantive court decision on a move by the Department of Health and Human Services that heightened a long-brewing antagonism between social conservatives on one side and Planned Parenthood Federation of America and other family planning groups on the other.
Under federal law, health-care groups were already barred from using federal funds for abortion services. The rule issued by HHS a year ago went further, forbidding health centers that provide abortions or refer patients for abortions elsewhere from receiving any money through the half-century-old family planning program — a change critics lambasted as a “gag rule.” The rule also requires health centers to erect “clear physical and financial separation” between services funded by the program and other activities.
Health centers still are allowed to provide “nondirective pregnancy counseling, including nondirective counseling on abortion” but do not have to do so.
HHS officials set an August deadline for clinics to report their plans to comply. Days before the deadline, Planned Parenthood withdrew from Title X, leaving more than 1 million low-income women without their regular source of care.
Monday’s majority opinion noted that since Title X began in 1970, its rules regarding abortion referrals have seesawed back and forth, depending on the political party of the administration in power.
The opinion, written by Circuit Judge Sandra Ikuta, appointed to the court by former president George W. Bush, said the Trump administration’s rule is slightly less restrictive than a 1988 version upheld by the Supreme Court. The decision also says the rule’s separation requirement is not arbitrary or capricious, rejecting opponents’ argument that HHS did not consider potential harm to clinics and patients….
The above comes from a Feb. 24 story in the Washington Post.