Maine Title X Recipients Take Trump Administration to Court

In an effort to block the Domestic Gag Rule, the Center for Reproductive Rights has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Maine Family Planning

(PRESS RELEASE)—Today, just days after the Trump Administration published its Domestic Gag Rule, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a case on behalf of Maine Family Planning (MFP)--the largest reproductive health care organization in the state and its sole Title X family planning program grantee--asking the District Court of Maine to block the rule, parts of which take effect on May 3, 2019. If enacted, the rule could eliminate 85% of abortion clinics in the state of Maine, with all but one of MFP’s 18 clinics being forced to cease abortion services.

The Domestic Gag Rule will:

  • Force healthcare providers that receive federal funding like MFP to stop performing abortions, even though no federal funds are used to finance abortion.
  • Prohibit doctors at these facilities from making referrals to abortion providers, even when the patient has already decided to have an abortion and directly asks for a referral.
  • Force doctors to instead give all pregnant patients prenatal referrals, even when the patient doesn’t want one.
  • Give Title X funding to non-medical organizations known as “crisis pregnancy centers”, which are designed to look like medical clinics but aim to deter women from getting abortions.

The Title X program was created nearly 50 years ago to ensure low-income Americans can afford birth control and other reproductive healthcare. Each year, the Title X program provides 4 million low-income patients with affordable birth control, STD testing, cancer screenings and more. In fact, 60% of women get their usual medical care from a Title X-supported healthcare center. In Maine, 23,800 low-income people receive Title X services every year, the large majority of which are women seeking birth control. Independent providers around the country, like MFP, serve a crucial role in making this healthcare available and affordable to women and families.

 “The Trump administration’s ‘Global Gag Rule’ has had a disastrous effect on women around the world,” Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights. “Now, the administration is coming after health care providers in the U.S. to destroy the provision of comprehensive, medically accurate reproductive health care.  We’ve filed suit today to stop that from happening.”

“The Gag Rule would harm low-income people everywhere, but it will hit rural patients – like those who receive care at Title X-funded clinics throughout our state – especially hard,” said George Hill, president and CEO of Maine Family Planning. “If the Gag Rule forces our clinics to stop providing safe and legal abortion care, it will be nearly impossible for many women in Maine to access these services. With fewer clinics available in already scarcely populated areas, women will have to drive dramatically greater distances to access care. For low-income women, the additional travel time and cost may delay access to care or push it out of reach entirely.”

For decades, existing regulations have prevented federal funds, including Title X, from being used for abortion services. The Domestic Gag Rule goes far beyond that, forcing clinics to stop performing abortions altogether or lose their funding for other services, which would put many out of business.

In the lawsuit, The Center argues that the rule: violates the Fifth Amendment by causing an undue burden to women’s constitutional right to abortion in Maine; violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause by simultaneously preventing medical professionals from speaking openly and honestly with their patients about abortion and compelling them to give their patients information they do not want; violates the Administrative Procedure Act (APA) because the change in policy is contrary to law, and also was adopted without permissible justification. For example, the rule provides no evidence to support upending the longstanding policies that have contributed to the success of the Title X program, nor does it address the harms to the rules will inflict on medical professionals and patients.

This case was filed by Emily Nestler, Molly Duane, and Arielle Humphries with the Center for Reproductive rights, along with Emily Ullman and Jennifer Saperstein with Covington & Burling LLP, and Richard O’Meara with Murray Plumb & Murray.

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MEDIA CONTACTS:

Center for Reproductive Rights: center.press@reprorights.org

MFP: Deirdre Fulton McDonough; (207) 835-9442; dfultonmcdonough@mainefamilyplanning.org