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Judge says Trump can't tell doctors how to do their job

A federal judge smacked down the Trump administration’s dangerous ‘gag rule’ on doctors.

By Dan Desai Martin - April 24, 2019
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A federal judge in Oregon has stopped the Trump administration from implementing its plan to restrict what doctors can discuss with their patients.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said Tuesday that he would issue a preliminary injunction to prevent Trump’s policy from going into effect as scheduled on May 3. At the hearing, McShane called the rule a “ham-fisted approach to public health policy,” and said that the rule prevented doctors from fulfilling their role as medical professionals.

The rule would strip federal funds from health care organizations where doctors perform abortions — or even simply refer patients who want an abortion to a facility which provides them.

Because it punishes doctors even for giving medical advice to patients in the U.S., the policy is also known as a “domestic gag rule.”

Since the Reagan era, Republican administrations have imposed similar restrictions on international NGOs that receive U.S. funds. This “global gag rule” causes needless deaths and other health problems for women whenever it’s implemented — and actually causes abortion rates to rise, even though it’s intended to restrict abortion.

The Trump administration was sued by the American Medical Association, Planned Parenthood, and a collection of 20 states over the gag rule, which restricts how Title X funds can be used.

Title X is the only federal program dedicated to ensuring low-income Americans have access to family planning services, like birth control and sexual health screenings. And even though Title X funds are already prohibited by law from covering abortion, anti-choice politicians often try to use them as a weapon to defund health providers like Planned Parenthood that offer abortion in addition to other health services.

Trump is also trying to attack Planned Parenthood and restrict women’s health care by redirecting Title X funds to sham “health centers” that try to talk women out of getting an abortion.

During the hearing, McShane repeatedly asked Trump’s lawyers defending the policy how a domestic gag rule would improve health outcomes. According to AMA President Barbara McAneny, the government “was unable to answer.”

“This is a victory for patients and doctors in this country,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement after the hearing. But she also cautioned that the fight was not over, adding, “relief is preliminary and we will continue to fight the Trump-Pence administration in court and in Congress to ensure our patients’ health and rights are protected.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, it was unclear if McShane’s preliminary injunction would impact the entire country or just the states that are a party to the lawsuit. While opponents to the rule want a national injunction, McShane said he is reluctant to set national health care policy.

The scope of the preliminary injunction will be included in a forthcoming written opinion from McShane.

This lawsuit is one of several filed against the administration’s domestic gag rule. But for now, at least one judge has halted Trump’s relentless attack on women’s autonomy and health care.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation. 


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