More than 20 states file lawsuits against Title X changes

Patient doctor Credit Andrei R Shutterstock CNA Andrei R / Shutterstock.

Nearly two dozen states are suing over changes to Title X eligibility that prevent recipients of the federal funding program from performing or facilitating abortions.

Calling the new rule "yet another attack from the Trump Administration on women and families," Oregon Governor Kate Brown pledged to fight "against this administration as they continue to undermine health care for those who need it most."

Oregon is among the states filing lawsuits over the Department of Health and Human Services' "Protect Life Rule." On Feb. 22, the department announced its finalized version of the rule.

Planned Parenthood is expected to be stripped of about $60 million in federal funds due to the rule change, which impacts eligibility requirements, although the new rules do not mandate a cut to total Title X funding nationally.

Title X is a federal program created in 1965 that subsidizes family-planning, including contraception, and other health screenings for low-income families. It has been frequently updated and subject to new regulations.

Among other provisions, the Protect Life Rule requires that there be a physical and financial separation between recipients of Title X funds and facilities that perform abortions. Clinics that provide "nondirective counseling" about abortion can still receive funds.  

Previous regulations, written during Bill Clinton's presidency, not only allowed for health clinics that were co-located with abortion clinics to receive funds, but also required that Title X recipients refer patients for abortions.

Pro-life groups have applauded the measure, saying it is an important step in recognizing that abortion is not health care.

However, abortion advocates have denounced the move as an attack on women.

"The Title X rule is designed to destroy our nation's family planning provider network and deprive millions of poor and low-income people of access to the contraception and other preventive health care they need," said Clare Coleman, president & CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.

On March 4, Oregon announced that it is leading a multi-state lawsuit against the new rules.

Oregon's attorney general was joined in the lawsuit by attorneys general of 20 other states – Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin – plus the District of Columbia.

California, home to the country's largest Title X program, also filed a lawsuit against the new rules on March 4. The suit says the new requirements force providers to forego Title X funding if they offer full and accurate information and unbiased counseling about abortion.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the changes are "dangerous to women's health" and will restrict patients' "access to critical healthcare services."

Washington state has also announced that it is preparing a lawsuit.

"Washington has been, and will continue to be, a state that stands with women and their right to safe and legal abortion and reproductive care. We will never allow President Trump or anyone else in D.C. to take those rights away," said Governor Jay Inslee in a Feb. 25 statement.

The changes in Title X funding are part of President Trump's campaign promise to defund Planned Parenthood, which is still eligible for other federal funding. Last year, Planned Parenthood received over $500 million in federal funds.

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