Pro-choice groups fear for abortion rights
Jeff Roberson/AP

SAN FRANCISCO—-Millions of low-income women nationwide face a GOP Trump administration gag rule on their abortion rights following a federal appeals court ruling on June 20 — maybe.

That’s because while a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld, at least for now, Trump’s gag rule, the panel’s decision isn’t permanent.

And the same day the judges voted 3-0 for the gag rule, the Democratic-run U.S. House passed a money bill for the year starting Oct. 1, banning the Health and Human Services Department from spending any money to enforce Trump’s gag rule. The 226-203 margin was virtually on party lines.

In the meantime, the judges’ ruling could cut off $60 million to Planned Parenthood, on the West Coast alone, thus affecting four million women there, an anti-abortion group reported with glee.

The gag rule bans reproductive rights providers from even being in the same building with, much less referring patients to, abortion services. The pro-Trump ruling will last until the end of a full-scale trial on the issue when the gag rule could live or die.

The key part of the gag rule says clinics offering reproductive services cannot share space or personnel with those offering abortions. Led by California, dozens of state governments and pro-choice organizations challenged the gag rule, but the judges said Trump’s Health and Human Services Department followed rules for public comment before imposing its gag rule.

Citing a prior U.S. Supreme Court decision, the 9th Circuit judges said “the prohibitions on advocating, encouraging, or promoting abortion, as well as on referring patients for abortions, are reasonable and in accord with” federal law.

They even said the High Court said the law “mandated financial and physical separation of Title X” family planning “projects from abortion-related activities. The text has not changed.”

“Planned Parenthood will not let the government censor our doctors and nurses from informing patients where and how they can access health care,” retorted Planned Parenthood’s Executive Director, Dr. Leana Wen, an emergency room physician.

“We will continue to fight the Trump administration in the courts and alongside champions in Congress to protect everyone’s fundamental right to health care,” she added.

NARAL warned the ruling actually imposes the Trump gag rule on reproductive rights clinics nationwide, because the appeals court in San Francisco, in letting it go ahead, tossed out one nationwide order against Trump’s gag rule. The ruling could thus cut off $286 million to Planned Parenthood around the U.S.

Meanwhile, the “champions in Congress” included a section in the money bill banning Trump from spending any funds to enforce the gag rule. The Democratic-run House passed it June 20. “The medical community, public health experts, and the general public are against this rule,” Wen said.

Though the House Democrats banned spending money on the gag rule, lawmakers left in place the 44-year-old GOP-crafted Hyde amendment, which bans any federal Medicaid funds for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of the mother.

“The ideological assault” from the court decision “reflects the administration and Republicans’ lack of trust in women to make choices best for them and their families,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., who chairs the House panel that wrote the anti-gag rule language into the money bill.

“Changing the rules will harm millions of people across the country,” she said. That’s why the money bill “prohibits the use of any taxpayer dollars to implement this cruel and heartless rule, and I will continue to fight this rule’s implementation.”

The ban on the gag rule “is a victory for all who believe in the fundamental right to access affordable birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing, and access to other essential health care,” Wen added. She called the gag rule unethical, dangerous domestic and an attack on “people’s health care, freedom, and rights.”

“Today’s court ruling to allow Trump’s dangerous gag rule to go into effect is devastating to millions across the country, whose healthcare and well-being is in jeopardy,” said NARAL Vice President Adrienne Kimmel. “This paves the way for a full-blown assault on reproductive healthcare. Title X providers can no longer refer their patients for the full range of healthcare options and patients are no longer guaranteed to receive complete, accurate information about their healthcare.”

“Limiting access to family planning services and putting politicians in between a woman and her doctor to restrict the information she receives about her pregnancy options is a terrifying new threat at a time when reproductive freedom is under unprecedented attack. This administration will stop at nothing to undermine access to reproductive healthcare.”


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.