California Sues Trump Administration Over New Abortion Restrictions

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Pro-choice activists, politicians and others associated with Planned Parenthood gather for a demonstration at City Hall on Feb. 25, 2019, in New York City against the Trump administration's Title X rule change.  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

California's attorney general filed a lawsuit on Monday challenging the Trump administration over its new rule setting up barriers for women seeking abortions, including prohibiting taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from performing or promoting the procedure.

Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the lawsuit seeks to block the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's "dramatic alterations" to the Title X program — the only federal program dedicated solely to family planning.

Separately, Oregon officials said they were helping to lead a coalition of 19 states plus the District of Columbia in filing a lawsuit challenging the rule, which takes effect in May —though some provisions come into force later. Their lawsuit will be filed on Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Oregon.

California is home to the largest Title X program in the nation, serving more than 1 million women — or 25 percent of the nation's recipients, Becerra's office said. The state's lawsuit was filed in the Northern District Court of California.

The changes, proposed in May 2018, include removing "the requirement that Title X funded entities refer for abortion," and barring Title X projects "from performing, promoting, referring for, or supporting abortion as a method of family planning," according to the final rule published Monday in the Federal Register.

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Another change mandates "clear financial and physical separation" between a Title X program and any activities that fall outside its scope, ensuring compliance with the requirement that funding "not support programs where abortion is a method of family planning," Health and Human Services said. That provision means federally funded family planning clinics would be prohibited from being housed in the same locations as abortion providers, Becerra said.

“The Trump-Pence Administration has doubled down on its attacks on women’s health," Becerra said in a statement. “The Trump-Pence Administration’s sabotage of Title X services that millions of women across our nation rely on is not only irresponsible, it is dangerous to women’s health. President Trump treats women and their care as if this were 1920, not 2019.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom said the rule was an "attack" on the more than 1 million low-income Californians "who rely on life-saving screenings and care from providers they trust."

“Playing politics with that care is dangerous and grossly irresponsible," he said in a statement. "Our mothers, wives, sisters and daughters deserve better."

Administration officials have told abortion opponents that they expected a number of legal challenges to the new rule. Health and Human Services didn't respond to a KQED call and email seeking comment Monday about the lawsuits.

Opponents of the new rule are calling it a “gag rule” because it will place "unlawful and unethical restrictions" on health care professionals by prohibiting them from offering "unbiased information" about and referrals for abortion services — even if specifically requested by the patient, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.