The Trump administration has been hard at work in Washington D.C. attempting to prevent women's health clinics that provide abortions from receiving any federal funds. But over in Washington state, politicians are making moves to block a new controversial abortion rule. Washington will sue over the Trump administration's gag rule that was announced by the Department of Health and Human Services on Friday targeting Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
Washington's Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced the move in a statement on Monday that elaborated on how the administration's rule would negatively affect women in the state of Washington. Some 90 percent of the state's Title X providers — including Planned Parenthood — would no longer be able to provide family planning services, cancer and STI screenings, and contraception through the program, according to his office's press release.
The gag rule's funding provisions alone could actually cause the number of abortions in the state to rise if no other Title X providers can step in. The office of the attorney general said 91,284 patients in the state received Title X services, preventing an estimated 18,000 unplanned pregnancies and 6,000 abortions. And current service providers would also likely have a hard time pivoting to meet the new requirements.
Title X providers would need to be "physically and financially" separate from abortion providers to receive any of the funding, meaning they would have to renovate offices or move services to new clinics, as well as start new business models that fully separate the services.
And all of that is on top of the limits it would place on what doctors can tell their patients. The rule would mean doctors can't make abortion referrals and can only give patients information about carrying the pregnancy to term.
"Patients should be able to make well-informed decisions based on complete, unbiased information about their health care options," Ferguson said in the statement. "Those decisions must stay between patients and their medical providers — not the federal government."
The belief that the federal government has no right to interfere in individual medical decisions between a patient and physician is written into the Affordable Care Act, and is one of the provisions that the lawsuit claims the new abortion rule violates. Ferguson also says that the rule ignores Congress' direction in the Title X law and violates the Administrative Procedure Act for its arbitrariness. Plus, his office's statement argues that the new rule violates doctors' constitutional right to free speech and the freedoms guaranteed by Roe v. Wade.
The issue could play a role in the presidential election if Washington Gov. Jay Inslee enters the race, as he's considering doing. "We stand united with Attorney General Ferguson and our state and legislative leaders against this blatant assault on women’s health," Inslee said in the statement. "Washington has been, and will continue to be, a state that stands with women and their right to safe and legal abortion and reproductive care. We will never allow President Trump or anyone else in D.C. to take those rights away."
Others states' attorneys general have promised legal challenges as well, including New York's Letitia James and California's Xavier Becerra. Ferguson beat them to the punch in announcing his lawsuit, but he probably wouldn't turn away their help in court. Ferguson's office told ABC News he would file in federal court in Spokane as soon as the rule is published in the federal register.