Attorney General Mark R. Herring today announced that Virginia has joined 21 state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a new rule Title X “Gag Rule” that will significantly restrict access to reproductive health services and information for women and families.
Attorney General Herring announced yesterday that he intended to sue. The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Eugene, Oregon and seeks to halt the Trump Administration’s proposed changes to Title X that would freeze out healthcare providers like Planned Parenthood and limit the information and range of healthcare services that low-income Virginians may receive through the Title X program. Additionally, Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the American Medical Association also filed a parallel lawsuit today in the U.S. District Court in Eugene.
“The Trump Administration continues to chip away at women’s health care and their right to make their own, informed choices when it comes to their bodies,”said Attorney General Herring. “The changes to these regulations would put the health of women across Virginia in danger and undermine the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. Women should be able to turn to the provider they know and trust when they are making personal decisions about their health.”
The rule relates to funding for Title X, the only federal grant program that funds family planning programs to help patients access contraception, breast and cervical cancer screenings, well-woman exams, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and other related health services.
The lawsuit filed today alleges that the Title X rule, if implemented, would reduce access and erode the quality of reproductive health care that Title X was originally intended to provide care for low income individuals. The new rule would also interfere with the health care provider and patient relationship, by limiting what a doctor can say to a patient.
Under the new rule issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, providers in any clinic that receives Title X funding will be barred from referring a patient for an abortion, even if she requests that information, and in many circumstances even discussing an abortion with a patient. The new rule also mandates a referral for prenatal care for every pregnant patient, regardless of the needs or the wishes of the patient.
In 2017, more than 50,000 Virginians received care through the Title X program, 65% of whom were uninsured. In 38% of Virginia localities the Title X provider is the only public healthcare provider and the clinics in these localities provided care to 24,120 women in 2015. The proposed rule would lead to higher costs for Virginia’s taxpayers. The Commonwealth received $4.45 million in Title X grants in 2017 and an additional $13 million could be at risk if VDH were to refuse funds altogether.
Joining Attorney General Herring in the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin.