Anna Sheffer
Updated Jul 16, 2019 @ 10:53 am

In February, the Trump administration passed a rule that restricted federal funding for abortion providers, as well as doctors who refer their patients to abortion clinics. This abortion referral “gag rule,” which the administration proposed in 2018, drastically reduces the money that abortion providers like Planned Parenthood receive, and it also makes it harder for pregnant patients to access information about all of their options for care. And now, this rule has officially taken effect.

According to the Associated Press, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced yesterday, July 15th, that federally funded clinics can no longer refer their patients for abortions. In addition, now that the rule has taken effect, these clinics can’t share finances with abortion providers. The AP notes that in 2020, abortion clinics will be required to be separate from family-planning clinics that receive taxpayers’ money.

These restrictions mark a change to Title X programs, which provide about $260 million in annual funding for family-planning clinics. The AP notes that Planned Parenthood affiliates serve about 40% of patients who use Title X programs, meaning that the new rules will have a huge, negative effect on the organization—and those it serves. But Planned Parenthood plans to challenge the new rule in court, and President Dr. Leana Wen told the AP, “our doors are still open.”

The Trump administration’s gag rule has already faced legal challenges. According to CNN, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in June that the rule could temporarily take effect while three other courts were deliberating on whether or not to block it. Then, on July 11th, the 9th Circuit upheld its original ruling, allowing the administration to enforce the rule.

The American Medical Association has also challenged the gag rule. According to an April news release, the organization filed a lawsuit against the HHS, with the Oregon Medical Association and Planned Parenthood listed among the co-plaintiffs. The plaintiffs argued in the suit that the “rule would cause immediate and irreparable harm to patients and providers and would politicize the practice of medicine and delivery of health care.”

Even though organizations are fighting the gag rule, now that it has taken effect it could have a very real impact on abortion access. If you feel strongly about ending these restrictions, contact your elected officials today.