Governors from a growing number of states are fighting back against a proposal by the Trump administration to bar clinics that provide abortion services or referrals from receiving federal family-planning funds. New York's Andrew M. Cuomo (D) and 13 others have threatened to sue. Washington state's Jay Inslee, Oregon's Kate Brown and Hawaii's David Ige, also Democrats, vowed to pull their states from the program if the changes are implemented.
On Monday, 13 attorneys general, all Democrats, added their voices to the opposition, arguing that the changes are unconstitutional.
“We will fight this rule at every turn,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading the coalition.
The new rule, announced May 18 by the White House and Department of Health and Human Services, is an effort to create what officials described as a “bright line” of physical and financial separation in the $260 million Title X program, designed to provide basic primary and preventive health services for low-income women and families, so that taxpayers do not “indirectly fund abortions.”
Critics have argued that the program would lead to doctors not being allowed to discuss comprehensive health-care options. They also say the change would lead to the closure of some clinics, lowering the availability of reproductive care throughout the country. Planned Parenthood, which serves 41 percent of the 4 million people who get care through the program, could lose as much as $60 million.
“There is no doubt the Trump administration’s damaging proposal would weaponize the Title X program, undermine women’s health and deny patients comprehensive, medically accurate information about their medical care,” Inslee said Monday.
Brown characterized the changes as a “gag rule” designed to impose limits on the discussion of abortion. She said if the changes are adopted, “it would leave me no choice but to act in the best interests of the citizens of Oregon and our state law, and withdraw our state’s participation from an unethical, ineffective Title X program that reduces access to essential preventive health services.”
Ige said that it was not an “issue about life or choices.”
“This is an issue about the rights of millions of individuals who deserve the best health care available,” he added.
While most of the governors opposed to the changes are Democrats, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, has criticized them for creating barriers to women receiving health care.
"Some of the proposals being made by the administration would limit or significantly hinder, in some cases perhaps deny women access to, Title X services, family planning services, prenatal care services and the like,” he told reporters, according to the Associated Press. “We urged them to take them back, and I'm sure they will get a lot of comments from people that sound like ours, and I hope that they do take them.”
In a letter sent this week to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, the attorneys general said the proposed rule censors speech and violates women’s constitutional right to reproductive choice.
If adopted, it would “result in the invasion of the physician-patient relationship, the trampling of the constitutional rights of patients and providers, the transmission of incomplete, misleading, and medically dangerous information to women, and the frustration of the right to make an informed, independent decision as to whether to terminate a pregnancy,” they said.
In addition to California's Becerra, the signatories included the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico and North Carolina.
The public comment period for the proposed rule is open through today. After that input is reviewed, the rule could be modified, terminated or adopted.
This post has been updated.
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