San Francisco Chronicle

Jus­tices agree to re­view Trump­era abor­tion rules

- By Bob Egelko Bob Egelko is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle staff writer. Email: begelko@sfchron­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @BobEgelko Health · Pharmaceutical Industry · Women's Health · U.S. News · US Politics · Society · Discrimination · Industries · Politics · Human Rights · U.S. Supreme Court · Donald Trump · United States of America · Planned Parenthood · Joe Biden · California · U.S. Court of Appeals · San Francisco · Richmond · Virginia · Richmond · Maryland · United States Department of Health and Human Services · Xavier Becerra · Birth Control · United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit · Susan B. Anthony

“We need swift and mean­ing­ful ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion to re­store Ti­tle X’s man­date to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive family plan­ning ser­vices.” Julie Rabi­novitz, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Es­sen­tial Ac­cess Health

The Supreme Court granted re­quests by abor­tion­rights ad­vo­cates Mon­day to re­view Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion rules that have barred re­cip­i­ents of U.S. family­plan­ning funds from re­fer­ring any of their 4 million low­in­come pa­tients for abor­tions.

The rules, in ef­fect since June 2019, also re­quire fed­er­ally funded family­plan­ning providers to place their abor­tion clin­ics in sep­a­rate fa­cil­i­ties, a man­date that has al­ready driven Planned Par­ent­hood out of the pro­gram. The Bi­den ad­min­is­tra­tion, how­ever, could re­peal its pre­de­ces­sor’s rules be­fore the court de­cides their le­gal­ity.

The fed­eral pro­gram, known as Ti­tle X, pro­vided $286 million last year for birth con­trol and re­pro­duc­tive care to low­in­come pa­tients, mostly women, in­clud­ing screen­ings for breast and cer­vi­cal can­cer and sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­eases.

Un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s reg­u­la­tions, doc­tors can dis­cuss all op­tions with preg­nant pa­tients at their clin­ics but must re­fer them only to pre­na­tal care, not to abor­tion providers. They can give pa­tients a list of providers in the area, in­clud­ing up to half who of­fer abor­tions, but can­not iden­tify the abor­tion providers.

Pre­vi­ously, an av­er­age of nearly 1 million Cal­i­for­ni­ans per year re­ceived Ti­tle X ser­vices at 365 fa­cil­i­ties in 38 coun­ties, said Julie Rabi­novitz, chief ex­ec­u­tive of Es­sen­tial Ac­cess Health, which dis­trib­utes the funds in Cal­i­for­nia. Last year, she said, fewer than 200,000 pa­tients were pro­vided care at 238 sites in 20 coun­ties.

The re­stric­tions, chal­lenged by Cal­i­for­nia and other states, were up­held last Fe­bru­ary by the Ninth U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals in San Fran­cisco. The ma­jor­ity in the 7­4 rul­ing said the reg­u­la­tions were a rea­son­able in­ter­pre­ta­tion of laws that pro­hibit most fed­eral fund­ing for abor­tion and do not in­ter­fere with women’s ac­cess to health care.

A fed­eral ap­peals court in Rich­mond, Va., later halted en­force­ment of the reg­u­la­tions in Mary­land. The Supreme Court agreed to re­view the con­flict­ing de­ci­sions Mon­day, with a rul­ing due by the end of June.

Pres­i­dent Bi­den, mean­while, is­sued a mem­o­ran­dum Jan. 28 say­ing the Ti­tle X cut­back “puts women’s health at risk” and or­der­ing his Health and Human Ser­vices sec­re­tary to re­view the rules and de­cide whether to re­vise or re­peal them. Bi­den’s nom­i­nee, Cal­i­for­nia At­tor­ney Gen­eral Xavier Be­cerra, has not yet been con­firmed by the Se­nate.

Rabi­novitz said pa­tients can’t af­ford to wait for a court rul­ing.

“We need swift and mean­ing­ful ex­ec­u­tive ac­tion to re­store Ti­tle X’s man­date to pro­vide com­pre­hen­sive family plan­ning ser­vices,” she said.

On the other side, Mar­jorie Dan­nen­felser, pres­i­dent of the anti­abor­tion Su­san B. An­thony List, said she was con­fi­dent the court would find that the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and like­minded fu­ture ad­min­is­tra­tions “have the right to dis­en­tan­gle Ti­tle X tax­payer fund­ing from the abor­tion in­dus­try.”

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