A three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently upheld key aspects of a Trump gag order that prohibits doctors and other medical personnel working at federal reproductive health care centers from discussing abortion with patients or referring them to places where they can receive abortion services.
The panel upheld an injunction issued by a lower court in May that prevented the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) from enforcing the gag rule. The appeals court found that the lower court was correct in finding that the rule was likely to deny, delay, or create an undue burden on the First Amendment rights of health care providers.
The appeals court affirmed the lower court’s decision that the gag rule was unreasonable, unconstitutionally enforced, and represented a violation of the providers’ right to free speech and right to due process.
The gag order applies to Title X grantees and sub-grantees, which provide family planning and related preventive care to low-income and uninsured individuals. Under the rule, these providers would not be able to refer patients for abortion services, discuss abortion, or refer patients to entities that provide abortion services. The rule would also allow grantees and sub-grantees to discriminate against abortion providers or those who refer for such services.
The Trump gag order has come under attack from several organizations, including Planned Parenthood, which called it a “direct attack on our patients’ constitutional rights”. The court’s decision not to enforce the gag order is a victory for reproductive health care providers and comes in the face of increasing attacks on health care providers and their patients.