Ruling that threatened funding for Planned Parenthood will be reheard by appeals court

A federal appeals court ruled last month that the Trump administration could block funding for family planning clinics that make abortion referrals. On Wednesday the court said an 11-judge panel will rehear the case.
(Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images)

A federal appeals court decided Wednesday that it will reconsider last month’s ruling that allowed the Trump administration to withhold family planning money from clinics that make referrals for abortion.

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decided in an internal vote to rehear the case and to block the June 20 decision by three Republican appointees from being cited in the future.

The decision reinstated nationwide injunctions that prevented President Trump’s directive from being enforced, said Julie Rabinovitz, President and CEO of Essential Access Health, which challenged Trump’s new rule.


“Although we are heartened that the injunctions were reinstated, this is still the beginning of a long judicial process,” she said.

Last month’s ruling had been a major setback for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. They filed an emergency appeal, which will be heard by an en banc panel of 11 judges.

The decision that will be reconsidered said Trump could enforce his new rule pending the administration’s appeal of orders by judges in California, Washington and Oregon.

The new rule, announced earlier this year, requires recipients of family planning funds to refer pregnant women to a non-abortion prenatal care provider.

The recipients may give women a list of providers that includes doctors who perform abortions but may not direct them to those physicians.

The rule also requires providers to encourage patients to discuss their situation with their families and to tell single women about the benefits of abstinence.


In addition, the administrative directive contained a requirement that providers keep their Title X-funded projects physically and financially separate from abortion services, a provision slated to take effect in March 2020.

That mandate would require providers to have separate offices and entrances for family planning and abortion services.

Washington, D.C., and 21 states, including California, challenged the rule, and medical associations have announced their opposition to it.

Planned Parenthood, which has said it would not comply with the rule, faces the loss of nearly $60 million in federal funds annually.

The panel that decided last month to permit Trump’s rule to take effect noted that the Title X family planning program at issue was limited by similar abortion-related restrictions in the past, and the U.S. Supreme Court upheld them.

“The Final Rule’s prohibitions on advocating, encouraging, or promoting abortion, as well as on referring patients for abortions, are reasonable,” the panel wrote.


The three 9th Circuit judges whose decision now appears likely to be overturned were Edward Leavy, a Reagan appointee, and Consuelo M. Callahan and Carlos T. Bea, both appointees of President George W. Bush.

Wednesday’s decision to rehear the case was announced in a one-page order.

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, reacting to the ruling, said the Trump Administration has “no business interfering in women’s reproductive medical decisions.”

“We look forward to continuing our fight to protect women’s access to reproductive care,” Becerra said.

Twitter: @mauradolan