Hero Judge Blocks Trump's Terrible Abortion Gag Rule... For Now.
Back in February, the Trump administration announced that it would be making the global gag rule on abortion truly global by implementing it right here in the United States. The new rule will bar family planning centers that refer patients to abortion providers from receiving Title X funding. The $286 million will instead be given to "faith-based" groups like Obria that, uh, pretty much just provide pregnancy tests for people who apparently don't know you can get pregnancy tests at the dollar store, and tell people about the rhythm method and adoption, for people who are somehow unaware that those things exist as well.
It's bad. It's ... it's really, really bad. And it's set to go into effect on May 3.
But (PHEW) we may be granted a reprieve. Late on Tuesday night, after hearing arguments from Planned Parenthood, the American Medical Association, and a coalition representing 20 US states and the District of Columbia, US District Judge Michael J. McShane, an Obama appointee, announced that he would grant a preliminary injunction against the new rule. The judge also granted a preliminary injunction against another stupid new rule that would prohibit Title X family planning centers from being housed in the same place as abortion providers. He says he will issue a formal opinion soon.
Via The Oregonian:
McShane said the so-called "gag rule'' -- barring physicians from referring patients who don't want to continue their pregnancies to an abortion provider -- prevents doctors from behaving like medical professionals.
The judge also found that it would create a class of low-income women who couldn't receive a full range of medical care options, foster a "geographic vacuum'' in reproductive health care clinics and likely cause an increase in abortions due to more unwanted pregnancies.
He said the rule, which is set to go into effect May 3, represents an "arrogant assumption'' that government is better suited to direct health care instead of providers.
Damn, Judge McShane gets it.
Attorney Andrew M. Bernie, who represented the federal government in the lawsuit, tried to argue that the rule would not cause any "irreparable harm" and also that it wasn't politically motivated at all. Which, duh, is absolute bullshit.
And the judge was more than happy to call him out on it.
"We are looking for good health outcomes. Are these rules going to bring about good health outcomes?'' McShane repeatedly asked Bernie.
McShane presented a hypothetical scenario, saying if he went to his doctor and asked for a vasectomy and his doctor referred him only to a fertility clinic, "that would seem insane to you, right?''
The judge said the government hadn't provided him with any data to counter medical experts' assertions that restricting medical professionals from discussing all reproductive health options with patients would result in increases in unwanted pregnancies, use of ineffective contraceptives and increases in sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.
WHOOO. Anyone know if this judge is single? Asking for a friend. Who is me.
Bernie then tried to argue that the new statute is a totally reasonable extension of Section 1008 of the Title X statute, which prohibits Title X funds from being used to perform abortions (which is a terrible statute in and of itself).
This has been an easy thing to push through, because most Americans who do not work in non-profits have no idea how non-profits even work. Which is fair. I think most of us don't know how a lot of jobs we've never had work. But because of this, unscrupulous types have convinced people that it is somehow possible that Title X funds are being used to provide abortions or to do things like "keep the lights on" which then aids in the abortion performing.
This is not true. Here's how it actually works. Someone writes a grant, saying, "We need X amount of money for condoms, X amount of money for birth control, X amount of money for breast exams, etc., etc., this is how we plan to use this money, this is the population we serve, yadda yadda yadda."
Then, when the year is up, the organization has to send a report back showing the receipts and detailing the impact the grant has had. This is what that report looks like. The things Title X pays for are not things that Planned Parenthood would otherwise have to pay out of pocket for (which is not to say that they wouldn't, but that this has nothing to do with any kind of profit margin). They are providing a service to the government, and doing a thing the government cannot do themselves because the government does not own its own family planning services. That is the basic purpose of all federal grants to non-profits -- we have determined that this benefits us as a nation, we can't do it ourselves, so we're going to give you the money to do it for us.
Taking away Planned Parenthood's Title X funding does not hurt Planned Parenthood's "bottom line." It hurts the people who benefit from Title X funding. If I were to give you 100 condoms to give away each month and then stop doing that, your financial situation is going to be exactly the same as it was before I said "Hey, go hand out these condoms for me." The people who would be impacted by that would be the people who were getting my donated condoms.
We are currently in the middle of a pretty goddamn severe ob-gyn shortage in America and more than half of the counties in the country do not even have one, never mind one that actually takes Medicaid or ACA insurance as Planned Parenthood does. It is, perhaps, not the smartest idea to go around making rules that put up barriers to people getting that care. It's good to know that there are people out there fighting against this, and a relief to see that at least one judge has found in their favor so far. Because if this does go through, a lot of people are going to be royally screwed.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse