American Medical Association calls on Supreme Court to overturn Trump administration rule that has had a huge impact on nation’s family planning program
WASHINGTON – The country’s largest group of doctors on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to overturn a Trump administration rule that has had a huge impact on family planning by banning taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for an abortion.
The American Medical Association acted after two U.S. appeals courts handed down conflicting rulings on the legality of the Trump administration’s restrictions, which apply to clinics that primarily serve low-income women.
“We believe this conflict needs to be resolved and we need to figure out how to deliver services within a program that has enjoyed bipartisan support for decades,” said WADA President Dr Susan Bailey.
But the changes to Title X, as the Federal Family Planning Program is known, are already in effect – and attract much less attention.
Last year, the Trump administration finalized a rule that prohibits clinics from referring pregnant women for abortions and imposes other restrictions, including a requirement for strict financial and physical separation of family planning facilities from those who perform abortions.
The Trump administration’s regulations “distort and decimate” Title X, WADA said in its petition asking the Supreme Court to take up the case.
A San Francisco-based appeals court upheld the Trump administration’s regulations, but a second Richmond, Virginia-based court ruled in a Maryland case that the restrictions were invalid. WADA says that means the administration’s abortion benchmark rule is in effect everywhere except Maryland.
Framing the case as a matter of free speech and medical ethics, the AMA said the administration rule attempts to control communication between clinicians and patients by prohibiting referrals for abortion, while requiring clinics to refer pregnant women to antenatal care, even if a woman decided she wanted to have an abortion.
“The patient-physician relationship is the cornerstone of good medical care, and patients should be able to believe and have complete confidence that their physicians are offering them all of their options and that communication is by no means blocked,” said Bailey. “This is frankly against our code of medical ethics.”
In response, the Department of Health and Human Services dismissed the charge that the settlement amounted to a “gag rule” and noted that the politically liberal San Francisco Federal Appeals Court had upheld it. . Nonetheless, it was a conservative mix of appellate judges that decided Cas.
The HHS also says it is trying to increase the number of patients served and improve quality.
Long-standing laws prohibit the use of federal funds to pay for abortions, but the family planning rule is part of a larger Republican effort to shut down various streams of taxpayer money still available to Planned Parenthood, the most major provider of abortions in the country. This has been a key priority for the religious and social conservatives of President Donald Trump’s political base.
Abortion remains a legal medical procedure, but the number and rate of abortions are at their lowest levels in nearly 50 years. Improving access to birth control is seen as one of the reasons.
“Title X has contributed to a 30-year low in unwanted pregnancies,” Bailey said. “We cannot afford to stray from this progress. “
The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and Essential Access Health, which administer the Title X family planning program in California, join the AMA’s petition.
Associated Press Supreme Court reporter Mark Sherman contributed.