California sues Trump administration over rule that stops doctors from discussing abortion with patients

  • California files a lawsuit against the Trump administration over a new regulation that bars taxpayer-funded family-planning clinics from providing abortion services or referrals.
  • At least a dozen other states also are preparing to challenge the so-called "gag rule," which bars the use of Title X money "to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning."
  • This marks California's 47th lawsuit against the Trump administration.
Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra.
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Attorney General of California Xavier Becerra.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced Monday that the state filed a lawsuit against the administration of President Donald Trump over its new rule that restricts access to abortions and other reproductive health services.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, comes as at least a dozen other states also are preparing to challenge the so-called "gag rule," which bars the use of Title X money "to perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion as a method of family planning."

"This rule gags our doctors, nurses and other care providers from fully discussing reproductive health with their patients and it bans doctors from referring patients for abortion," Becerra, a Democrat, told reporters at a press conference in Sacramento. "Medical care should be between a woman and her doctor, not the president or the vice president of the United States."

The Title X program, which dates back to 1970, provides family-planning and related preventative health-care assistance to about 4 million low-income individuals each year through independent clinics, including many affiliated with Planned Parenthood. The new rule "makes notable improvements designed to increase the number of patients served and improve the quality of their care," the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Feb. 22.

Asked for comment, an HHS spokesperson said: "As a matter of policy, we do not comment on pending litigation."

The White House didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

This marks the 47th lawsuit by the Democratic-led state against the Trump administration. Several of the other lawsuits filed by California involve health-care policies of the administration.

In December 2017, California sued the administration over rules that allowed some employers to opt out of providing employees birth control coverage on religious or moral grounds. Also, the state is suing to defend Obamacare in federal court.

"We're ready for this next challenge," Becerra said. "We're ready to stand up for a woman's right to make her own health-care decision about her own body."

Out of all the beneficiaries of the Title X program, one in four live in California. More than half of them are at or below the federal poverty level.

Becerra called the new regulation "dangerous" for women and their families and claimed it "will interfere with the practice of medicine and result in clinics going out of business due to financial strain." He also called it "a systematic effort by this administration to end access to birth control and safe, legal abortion."

He said the costs of the new rule for the Golden State "would be staggering." He estimated that for every dollar spent in publicly funded family-planning programs the government saves more than $7 in Medicaid-related costs.

The state attorney general estimated that the potential gross savings from preventing what he called "unintended pregnancies in California" was more than $1.3 billion annually.