Federal Appeals Court Lifts Nationwide Injunction on Trump Administration Title X Rule

On Thursday, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals invalidated nationwide injunctions previously put into place by lower court judges in Oregon, Washington, and California, clearing the way for the Trump Administration to enforce its new rules governing the Title X family planning program. Recall, the Trump Administration issued a final rule in March prohibiting Title X providers from referring patients to certain reproductive health services and limiting sites that are eligible to receive Title X funds. The rule further specified that clinics that refer patients to other facilities for abortion services would no longer qualify for Title X funds to provide low-income women with comprehensive family planning and preventive health services.

Following the issuance of the final Title X rule by the Trump Administration, several states, including California, and reproductive health and medical organizations filed lawsuits challenging the overhaul of Title X, resulting in the issuance of the nationwide injunction.

Thursday’s ruling by the three-judge appeals court panel granted the Trump Administration’s request to remove the nationwide injunction while those lawsuits continue. In its 3-0 ruling, the judges indicated, “Absent a stay, HHS will be forced to allow taxpayer dollars to be spend in a manner that is has concluded violates the law, as well as the Government’s important policy interest in ensuring that taxpayer dollars do not go to fund or subsidize abortions.” The judges also determined the Trump Administration’s new approach to Title X was a “reasonable interpretation” of the federal family planning program and was likely to succeed in the ongoing legal challenges.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has indicated as a result of the removal of the injunctions, some provisions of the Trump Administration’s final rule, including the ban on abortion services referrals, will take effect immediately, while others, including the requirement for Title X grant recipients to physically and financially separate abortion services and Title X-funded services, will take effect next year. In a statement, Governor Gavin Newsom expressed his disappointment in the Ninth Circuit ruling, stating, “The Trump Administration’s Title X rule was never about protecting women’s health – it is designed to promote a backwards agenda at the expense of women and their doctors. Title X is a critical lifeline for nearly four million low-income women around the country – one million here in California – who trust the program for quality care and life-saving screenings and now face immediate harm.”

In California, eight LHDs are Title X subgrantees, delivering reproductive health services to residents at 46 sites in those jurisdictions. LHDs that are not subgrantees work closely with community-based Title X providers to ensure access to essential health services.

Parties who brought the lawsuit against the Trump Administration on Thursday reiterated their commitment to challenging the new Title X rules, though their next steps were unclear. A different panel of Ninth Circuit judges will soon hear arguments on the merits of cases brought by states and organizations, and other ongoing legal challenges are expected to continue while the Trump Administration may now enforce its new rules governing the program.