Ohio's top lawyer is suing the Biden administration to restore a Trump-era ban on abortion referrals by family planning clinics that was reversed earlier this month.
The action Monday by Ohio's GOP Attorney General Dave Yost in U.S. District Court in Cincinnati was joined by 11 other states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
At issue are new federal regulations set by the Department of Health and Human Services that take the Title X federal family planning program back to the way it ran under the Obama administration, when clinics were able to refer women seeking abortions to a provider.
The two rules Yost wants reinstated were passed in 2019. One required federally funded family planning clinics to be physically and financially independent of abortion clinics. The other required them to refrain from referring patients for abortions.
He said both rules were intended as firewalls between clinics' family planning services, which can receive taxpayer funding, and their abortion services, which cannot.
"You can't 'follow the money' when all the money is dumped into one pot and mixed together," Yost said in a statement announcing the action Monday.
"Federal law prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion – and that law means nothing if the federal money isn't kept separate."
An Oct. 4 decision by the White House restored the Title X program, from which federally funded family planning clinics receive funding, to how it operated between 2000 and 2019.
"We are making clear that access to quality family planning care includes accurate information and referrals — based on a patient's needs and direction," Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said in a statement at the time.
The lawsuit follows a letter Yost and 20 other states sent to Health and Human Services in May warning the Biden administration against reversing the Trump-era rule, The Epoch Times reported.
The family planning grant program was established by Congress in the 1970s as Title X of the Public Health Service Act, and aimed at providing funding for certain types of pre-pregnancy family planning services for low-income individuals.
The Department of Health and Human Services in 1988 under President Ronald Reagan put regulations in place to explicitly forbid clinics receiving Title X funds from providing counseling or referrals for abortion as a method of family planning, the Epoch Times noted. The regulations were suspended in 2000 by the Clinton administration.
Between 2014 and 2019, Title X offered more than $280 million a year to clinics serving primarily low-income individuals, to provide birth control and basic healthcare services, the news outlet noted.
But 2019 rules established under former President Donald Trump prompted a mass exit by service providers affiliated with Planned Parenthood, as well as several states and other independent organizations.
Women's groups labeled the Trump policies a "gag rule," and medical organizations called it a violation of the clinician-patient relationship. But religious and social conservatives praised the policy for imposing a strict separation between family planning services and abortion.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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