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The Trump administration has spent weeks planning to cut providers, if they refer patients for abortions, out of the only federal program dedicated to paying for family planning services. But those plans are now officially on hold, after a federal judge in Washington state issued a nationwide temporary stay in the case, the state attorney general announced Thursday.
After months of rumors, the Trump administration announced in February that it would no longer allow organizations that offer abortion or refer patients for abortion to receive funding from Title X, a $286 million program that provides contraception and cancer and STD screenings to low-income people. (It’s already illegal for Title X money to pay for abortions.)
The proposed changes, set to go into effect on May 3, were largely viewed as a way to stealthily defund Planned Parenthood. The organization sees 41 percent of the 3.8 million patients who use Title X for contraception. Had the Trump administration’s rules gone into effect, they could have cost Planned Parenthood up to $60 million, according to the Washington Post.
But within weeks of the announcement, more than 20 states filed lawsuits over the changes. In Washington, Attorney General Bob Ferguson argued that changing Title X would leave 21 Washington counties without a single Title X provider.
Judge Stanley Bastian, in the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Washington, heard arguments in the Washington case Thursday and ruled shortly afterward.
“Today’s decision sends a message to this administration that it will not get away with making harmful changes to the nation’s family planning program, at the expense of people’s health care,” the National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association, which joined Washington’s lawsuit, said in a statement. “However, today is just the beginning of a long road to fight back against the largest attack on contraception in a generation.”
Bastian is the second judge in a week to take steps to block the Trump administration’s changes to Title X. On Monday, a judge in Oregon said that he would issue an opinion to halt them but suggested that it may not apply nationwide.
Cover image: Dr. Erin Berry, Washington State Medical Director for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, holds a folder as she listens at a news conference announcing a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration's Title X "gag rule" Monday, Feb. 25, 2019, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)