EUGENE, April 30, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — On Monday, a federal judge blocked a Trump administration attempt to prevent federally funded health care providers from referring pregnant women for abortions, describing the new policy as “madness.”
U.S. district court judge Michael McShane, who was appointed during the Obama administration, issued a nationwide injunction against a new Trump administration so-called Final Ruling or Protect Life Rule that clarifies how federally funded health care and contraceptive providers may relate to abortion providers. The new rule was scheduled to go into effect on Friday.
“Should the Final Rule go into effect in mere days, the risk of irreparable damage to the health of women and communities is grave,” wrote McShane in his final order, which was filed on Monday.
Claiming that low-income women will have negative health outcomes because of the Final Ruling, McShane wrote: “HHS’s response to these negative health outcomes is one of silence and indifference.” He said the HHS rule is “arbitrary and capricious.”
The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule would have prohibited any federally funded women’s health and contraception clinic from referring patients to abortion-providers. It also would have prohibited federally funded health care and contraception clinics from sharing office space with abortion-providers. Supporters of the rule have pointed out that the new rule would adhere to the original intent of Title X of the Public Health Service Act that “none of the funds appropriated under this title shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.” Planned Parenthood has said it will not comply.
Joining abortion proponents, McShane referred to the Trump administration policy as a “Gag Rule.” McShane wrote, “The Gag Rule is remarkable in striving to make professional health care providers deaf and dumb when counseling a client who wishes to have a legal abortion or is even considering the possibility.” Under the so-called Gag Rule, health care clinics would be able to provide lists of providers to women seeking abortion but would be prohibited from designating which actually provide abortion.
Title X provides federal grants to Planned Parenthood and others for services that include contraception and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, especially for low-income communities. Pro-life groups have criticized the program and contended that there is no meaningful separation between these government-funded services and abortions. While taxpayer funding may not be used to directly pay for abortions, the money indirectly funds Planned Parenthood’s abortion business by about $60 million a year.
The State of Oregon joined 19 other states and the District of Columbia, as well as Planned Parenthood and the American Medical Association, in the lawsuit against HHS. McShane’s ruling came less than one week after he heard arguments in court. On April 23, he said that he would approve an injunction but was not certain whether it would be binding nationally. “There is ample evidence regarding the potential harm to the public health of not only the plaintiff states, but the nation,” wrote McShane. “Given that the harm to Plaintiffs would occur in every state, and considering the balance of equities … a nationwide injunction is appropriate.”
Planned Parenthood, which receives 40 percent of Title X funding, has said it would stop participating in Title X programs if the Trump administration reform is enforced. McShane wrote, “One would imagine HHS relied on studies and research to determine the impact on women’s health should a provider of nearly half of all Title X services withdraw from the program.” He added, “If HHS in fact relied on something, it is not shown in this record.”
In a press statement, Gov. Kate Brown (D) heralded the decision. “This ruling is a huge win for women in families in Oregon and across the nation,” said Brown. “The government has no place in conversations between women and their doctors, and I am pleased that a federal judge agreed that the Trump Administration's reckless rule should be blocked.” Brown told a news conference, “We are very, very pleased with the outcome.”
Critics of Judge McShane’s ruling have characterized it as an example activism in the judiciary. “Abortion is not healthcare nor is it family-planning,” said Lois Anderson of Oregon Right to Life, according to a statement. “However, abortion is big business. Planned Parenthood performs almost 40 percent of abortions in the country. They have a financial interest in keeping Title X funding coming their way.”