Sun | Oct 25, 2020

Doctors ask Supreme Court to strike down Trump abortion rule

Published:Thursday | October 1, 2020 | 1:13 PM
In this March 20, 2019 file photo, the Supreme Court Building is shown in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

WASHINGTON (AP) — The nation’s largest doctors’ group on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to strike down a Trump administration rule that’s had a far-reaching impact on family planning by prohibiting taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for abortions.

The American Medical Association acted after two US appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of the Trump administration restrictions, which apply to clinics that mainly serve low-income women.

“We do think this conflict needs to be resolved and we need to figure out how to deliver services under a program that has had bipartisan support for decades,” said AMA President Dr Susan Bailey.

The AMA’s move will raise the profile of a reproductive rights issue overshadowed by bigger election-year battles.

The recent death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has prompted speculation that a more conservative court could overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalised abortion, as well as the Obama health law that expanded coverage and made birth control free for most women.

But the changes to Title X, as the federal family planning program is known, are already in effect — and getting much less attention.

Last year the Trump administration finalised a rule that prohibits clinics from referring pregnant women for abortions and imposes other restrictions, including a requirement for strict financial and physical separation of family planning facilities from ones that provide abortions.

As a result, about 1 in 5 of some 4,000 clinics receiving federal funds left the program, including Planned Parenthood and its affiliates.

Advocates say the exodus has disrupted care for women who receive birth control and routine medical attention from the clinics.

The programme usually serves some four million clients, and the AMA says that was down about 20% last year.

The Trump administration’s regulation “warps and decimates” Title X, the AMA said in its petition asking the Supreme Court to take the case.

The Health and Human Services Department has said it would strive to prevent any gaps in services, and some officials have blamed Planned Parenthood for the disruptions.

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