Attorney General Becerra Asks Court to Protect California’s Title X Family Planning Program
California files motion for partial summary judgment asking court to rule on claims Trump Administration illegally promulgated anti-family planning rules
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra asked the Northern District of California court to rule on its complaint that alleges the federal government illegally promulgated a Final Rule (Gag Rule) to undermine the Title X program, the nation’s only federal family planning program. The Trump-Pence Administration’s Gag Rule attacks Title X by limiting access to preventive healthcare including access to birth control, restricting healthcare providers' ability to provide comprehensive information to patients, and prohibiting referrals for abortion. California and other plaintiffs are still waiting for a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals regarding the federal government’s appeal of the district court’s earlier grant of a preliminary injunction halting the implementation of the Gag Rule.
“The Title X program is a critical tool that helps low-income women and families access essential healthcare in California and across the nation,” said Attorney General Becerra. “This is yet another attack on women and their reproductive rights by the President and Vice President who circumvented the law and the public by jamming this Gag Rule through the process. That’s unacceptable. California won’t watch struggling families go without basic healthcare.”
California’s renewed push against the Title X regulation is based on the physical separation requirement of the Title X Final Rule which will take effect on March 4, causing further devastating consequences for California’s Title X network. The physical separation requirement would require both physical and financial separation between any Title X program participant and any facility that provides abortion services. This means a provider must have, at a minimum, separate examination and waiting rooms, office entrances and exits, phone numbers, email addresses, educational services, websites, staff and personnel, electronic or paper-based health care records, and workstations. The financial and administrative burdens this requirement would impose on Title X providers would only increase the exodus of providers from the program. California has already experienced a significant loss of Title X providers since the Gag Rule took effect. Without relief before the March 4 deadline, California may no longer have a Title X network, causing untold harm to thousands of women and families across the state. California seeks to resolve its Administrative Procedures Act (APA) claims before the physical separation deadline to mitigate this harm.
In the brief, California argues that the Trump Administration’s final rule is in violation of the APA because it is arbitrary and capricious as well as contrary to federal statutes that require non-directive counseling and that forbid the federal government from creating unreasonable barriers to appropriate medical care.
A copy of the motion is available here.
On May 22, 2018, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released a proposed Rule that would place several harmful restrictions on the Title X family planning program, referred to as the Gag Rule. California is home to the largest Title X program in the nation. Attorney General Becerra announced his legal concerns shortly after the proposed Rule became public. On July 18, 2018, Attorney General Becerra requested that the Office of Management and Budget reopen its review of the Rule given the insufficient and controversial reasoning offered by the Administration for its proposed changes. On July 30, 2018, he led a coalition of 13 attorneys general in filing a comment letter opposing the Trump-Pence Administration’s proposal. Further, Attorney General Becerra also filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on August 28, 2018, seeking documentation about the formulation of the proposal.
Despite these efforts, the Rule was finalized on March 4, 2019. That same day, Attorney General Becerra filed a lawsuit challenging the Rule in the Northern District Court of California, claiming the proposed restrictions to Title X disregard the rule of law and would harm California. On April 26, 2019, the district court concluded that implementing the Rule while those challenges are litigated would be highly disruptive and would result in irreparable harm to public health and public fisc, causing an exodus of high-quality Title X providers who cannot accept restrictions requiring them to compromise the quality of care they provide and violate standards of medical ethics. Three other district courts entered similar orders. On May 6, 2019, the federal government filed a motion to stay the injunction in the district court and allow the Rule to go into effect. On May 8, 2019, the district court denied this request. On May 10, 2019, the federal government appealed this decision to the Ninth Circuit. On June 20, 2019, a panel of three Ninth Circuit judges stayed all three injunctions against the Rule, pending appeal. On June 26, 2019, Attorney General Becerra filed a motion seeking an en banc reconsideration of that ruling. The en banc panel has yet to issue a ruling.