Oregon leaders are preparing to sue the Trump administration over a new rule they say will "significantly restrict access to reproductive health services and information."
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced they plan to file a lawsuit Tuesday challenging the Trump administration's proposed changes to Title X family planning funding. That federal program provides reproductive health services like contraception to millions of low-income Americans. The lawsuit is backed by 20 states and the District of Columbia.
The new rule — first announced by the Trump administration last year — would withhold federal family planning dollars to organizations that offer abortions or make abortion referrals. Almost every county in Oregon has a Title X clinic, and the state has relied on funding from the federal program for decades.
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“This is yet another attack from the Trump Administration on women and families, and it is appalling that the federal government wants to rob individuals of the right to complete medical information and full access to the critical health care services they rely on," Brown said in a press release. "I will continue to fight back against this administration as they continue to undermine health care for those who need it most.”
More than 37,000 patients passed through Title X clinics in Oregon in 2017, most of them below the federal poverty level. Oregon took in more than $3 million in Title X funding last fiscal year.
“What this new rule means is that providers in Oregon who receive Title X funding will have to decide whether they will refuse the funding or ‘cave’ to the requirements of this new rule," Rosenblum said. "Neither is a good or fair option for women and families who often have no other access to medical care."
Anne Udall, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette, said the agency uses this federal funding to provide a wide range of reproductive services to about 24,000 patients, largely women.
If the gag rule stands, she said, “the end result is you will have a lot of women who will not be able to access services.” She said other low-income health clinics would have difficulty handling the demand. Udall said Planned Parenthood would survive a federal funds cutoff, and that she is more concerned about “the message it sends and the harm it does to the patients we serve.”
This is not the first challenge to the Trump administration over changes to family planning rules out of Oregon. In June, Multnomah County sued and won against the federal government over new criteria for obtaining federal sex education grants. The county argued the new criteria prioritizes applicants who promote abstinence-only sex education programs.
Attorneys general from Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin are also joining Oregon's lawsuit.
Jeff Mapes contributed to this report.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to clarify the states supporting the lawsuit against the Trump administration.