Gov. Gavin Newsom to sue Trump over abortion policy, chief of staff says

California plans to sue the Trump administration over its plan to deny federal funds to family planning organizations that provide abortion referrals, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff said today.

If the lawsuit is filed, it would become California’s 47th challenging Trump administration policies.

Newsom Chief of Staff Ann O’Leary announced the governor’s plan on Wednesday. It follows the Trump’ administration’s introduction last week of a regulation that would restrict funding to hundreds of family planning organizations such as Planned Parenthood by withholding money they had been receiving for health care services ranging from cancer screenings to contraception.

Trump’s plan would deny that so-called Title X funding to recipients that provide abortion counseling and referrals. It also would allow anti-abortion pregnancy centers to receive the funds.

The regulation would require clear financial and physical separation of abortion providers from those that provide other family planning services.

O’Leary called the plan “unconstitutional” during an event with Public Policy Institute of California. She cited the proposal as one of the issues “that fundamentally we disagree on in terms of who we are as people.”

Attorneys general from states like Washington and New York have also said they will take legal action against the proposed final rule.

According to the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association (NFPRHA), 356 Title X service sites operated in California in 2017, 102 of which were Planned Parenthood centers.

In 2017 they received $20 million in federal funding and served over 1 million patients. That’s more than a quarter of those served by the program nationwide, according to the association.

California receives the largest share of Title X funds in the country, accounting for about 7 percent of the $286.5 million program.

‘Hundreds of layoffs’

Julie Rabinovitz, president and CEO of Essential Access Health, which administers California’s Title X family planning program, said the proposed regulations could put tremendous strain on the family planning organizations in the state.

”They’re a huge step backwards for women’s health,” she said. “There could be dozens if not hundreds of layoffs and longer wait times for appointments as well as wait times in the clinic,” she said.

Rabinovitz said the new regulations could make clinics vulnerable to closing — particularly those that rely on the federal funds for a large part of their budgets. Those that don’t close may be forced to cut back programming or reduce their hours, she said.

Rabinovitz also said the prospect of crisis pregnancy centers gaining access to federal funds is “one of our biggest fears.”

Abortion rights organizations are calling the regulations a “gag rule,” citing the proposed restriction on Title X grantees from offering abortion referrals or counseling.

Planned Parenthood probably would be ineligible to receive federal funds, said one of the organization’s top lawyers in California.

It would prohibit doctors, nurses, hospitals, community health centers from providing information and talking to patients about abortion,” said Maggy Krell, chief legal counsel for Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California. “We will never force our providers to censor themselves, and Planned Parenthood will never erode the trust that our patients have with us.”

Pro life groups celebrate rule

Wynette Sills, director of Californians for Life, says the proposed regulations are welcome, though not surprising.

“This updated Title X language is reflective of the original Title X document as well as a reflection of the well-known Hyde Amendment,” Sills said, referring to the 1976 legislative provision that bars federal funds from being used to pay for abortion, unless it is to save a woman’s life or end a pregnancy that was the result of rape or incest.

“Planned Parenthood does not need $60 million dollars,” Sills said. “For them to be selfishly fighting for this Title X funding is egregious.”

“We would appreciate the Title X’s intent to be utilized for non-killing federally qualified health care providers nationally and here in California,” she said.

Brian Johnston, chairman of the California Pro-Life Council, echoed Sills, saying the new regulations reinforce the original intent of law.

“Title X was established clearly with the distinction between family planning to encourage family planning but to make the very clear distinction between that and abortion,” he said.

“As long as people want to get family planning funds from the federal government they can continue to do that, but if they want to equate abortion or refer or promote abortion as a form of family planning, it was never designed to do that,” he said.

Newsom doubles family planning funds

Abortion rights advocates disagree. “I think the sort of idea that these rules are somehow consistent with the original intent is absolutely insane,” said Shannon Hovis, assistant director of California programs for NARAL Pro-Choice America. “They are absolutely reckless and dangerous regulations and in California the impact is going to be really significant.”

California state officials have been outspoken in their support for reproductive rights and their opposition to the Trump administration’s efforts to redirect funding toward anti-abortion organizations.

“This rule is reckless and dangerous for women. The Trump-Pence Administration has yet again shown its deliberate disregard for women’s reproductive freedom and the rule of law,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra in a statement. “We stand ready to take any and all legal action to protect women’s health and rights.”

In his January budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed doubling funding for family planning services in the Medi-Cal program, allocating an additional $50 million in Prop 56 funds.

The proposed final rule will go into effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register.