The U.S. Court of Appeals Upheld President Trump’s Title X Gag Rule

Supermajority Education Fund

February 27, 2020

On Monday, the U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the Trump administration’s 2019 rule that prohibits clinics that provide abortions or refer low-income women for abortions from using money federally funded by Title X — a 1970 federal law that allows for low-income patients to receive birth control, reproductive care, and other healthcare at clinics. Beginning March 4, these clinics will also be barred from sharing office space with abortion providers. As the Washington Post notes, this particular limitation might force clinics to find new, likely expensive spaces, remodel, or shut down entirely. 

Earlier this month, the Guttmacher Institute reported that the 2019 rule — which opponents categorize as a “gag rule” — has already drastically affected clinics that were relying on Title X funding to service low-income patients by slashing the Title X patient capacity in half. This means 1.6 million patients nationwide are not receiving federally funded reproductive health care. 

Monday’s decision overturned three separate injunctions out of Washington, Oregon, and California from judges banning the rule. 

Kimberly Inez McGuire, executive director at Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity (URGE), said the U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision further hurts Americans, especially low-income young people, who need Title X resources to get healthcare. 

“This rule and the Ninth Circuit’s decision not only impacts the ability for entities to receive Title X funding but also consequently impacts the quality of healthcare young people will receive,” McGuire said. “In order for young people to be empowered to make the best decisions about their healthcare for themselves, they need the full spectrum of health care options that are also free from stigma.”

The Ninth Circuit’s decision comes just days before the Supreme Court will hear a case from Louisiana that opponents say would leave the state with only one doctor who can perform abortions. Oral arguments in the case, which will decide whether a 2014 Louisiana law that requires doctors who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital can stand, begin on March 4. So far, only one doctor in the state has been able to meet those requirements. 

McGuire said that even if the Supreme Court rules against the Louisiana case, there are still enough barriers in the U.S. that won’t change abortion access for low-income people. Activists will still have plenty of archaic rules and legislation to fight. 

“Barriers like TRAP laws [targeted restrictions on abortion providers], interfere with young people accessing abortion, from unnecessary ultrasounds, mandatory waiting periods, and admitting privileges requirements for providers. People on the ground, especially young people of color and young LGBTQ+ folks face extensive barriers to getting the care they need,” McGuire said. “Activists and people on the ground have been and will continue to center the most marginalized in our society, and fight to dismantle systems of oppression so that reproductive justice can truly be achieved.”