Appeals court rules in Biden’s favor over abortion referrals

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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) – Federally funded family planning clinics can continue to make abortion referrals for now, a federal court ruled Tuesday, a setback for a dozen Republican attorney generals who have sued to restore a Trump-era ban on the practice.

The 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati denied a request by the 12 states to stay rules on the federal government’s family planning program while their case is heard. States have been keen to halt implementation before the next round of federal grants begins in March.

It’s about new rules by Democratic President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services that restored the state‘s Title X family planning program to how it ran under the Obama administration, when clinics could refer women seeking abortions to a provider.

Rules that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who filed the lawsuit, wants to permanently reinstate were introduced in 2019 under former President Donald Trump, a Republican. One called for state-funded family planning clinics to be physically and financially independent of abortion clinics. The other urged her not to refer patients for abortions.

States joining the challenge are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia. Not all states participate in Title X.


Yost argues that the rules were intended as firewalls between family planning clinics, which can receive taxpayer money, and their abortion services, which cannot.

US District Judge Timothy Black dismissed that argument in a ruling last month, denying an injunction that would have temporarily suspended the rules. The 12 states appealed his decision to the 6th federal court, which said they could not prove they would be irreparably harmed by the enacted rules.

Black said opponents focused their case on a political disagreement, not a legal one.

“The principle that money is justifiable must have theoretical limits, otherwise no government funding for any purpose could ever be viable,” Black wrote on December 29. “Title X doesn’t subsidize abortion any more than funding a homeless shelter subsidizes drug abuse.”

The reversal of Trump-era rules by the Biden administration in October came as political and legal battles over abortion intensified while Republicans burgeoned to consider the landmark Roe v. to overthrow Wade in the US Supreme Court.

Yost stressed that his lawsuit does not challenge Roe’s guaranteed right to an abortion.

The ban on Title X-funded family planning clinics from using public funds for abortions is contained in the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970, Yost said. Black pointed out that the Trump-era rules were in place for less than two years, during which time 1.5 million fewer patients attended Title X-funded services.

The program provides more than $250 million annually to clinics to provide birth control and basic health services, primarily to low-income women, many of them from minority communities.

The rules introduced under Trump led to a mass exit from service providers associated with Planned Parenthood, as well as several states and other independent organizations.

Groups representing the clinics said they hoped the reversal of the Biden administration would prompt about 1,300 local facilities who left in protest to return.

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