A federal judge in Washington state issued a nationwide preliminary injunction April 25, blocking a rule which would deny government funding to health clinics co-locating with abortion facilities. The ruling comes just days before the Protect Life Rule was due to go into effect.
U.S. District Court Judge Stanley Bastian in the Eastern District of Washington state ruled Thursday that the Protect Life Rule represented “no public interest” and that the Department of Health and Human Services acted unlawfully in pursuing the policy. The suit was brought by the state of Washington.
The Protect Life Rule prohibits the distribution of Title X family planning funds to clinics that are co-located with facilities that perform abortions.
Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, was set to lose about $60 million in federal funding due to the rule change. Planned Parenthood receives about half a billion dollars in federal funds each year, including money from Title X.
Bastian made his ruling one day after U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said he would issue a preliminary injunction against the same policy, finding that the ban on abortion referrals would prevent doctors from behaving like medical professionals.
In a case brought by twenty states and the District of Columbia, McShane ruled the new regulation would remove the full range of medical options for low-income women, create a “geographic vacuum” in reproductive health care, but said he was unlikely to issue a national injunction.
Two further suits, brought by California and Maine, are still pending. The policy was due to go into effect on May 3.
Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson welcomed the ruling by Bastian, and said that the injunction “ensures that clinics across the nation can remain open and continue to provide quality, unbiased healthcare to women.”
The Protect Life Rule did not reduce the amount of federal funding available through the Title X program, but only restricted how the funds could be allocated.
At least one state Planned Parenthood organization had already put into place a contingency plan to provide birth control without Title X funds.
Shortly after the Protect Life Rule was formally announced, Planned Parenthood of Illinois announced the “Access Birth Control” program, which would provide contraceptives free-of-cost for eligible persons.