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Friday, May 31, 2019

Reproductive Rights Clinic Wins Injunction for Baltimore Family Planning Providers

Ruling on a suit brought by the city of Baltimore with help from the Reproductive Rights and Justice Project, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in the state of Maryland that blocks Trump administration regulations that would restrict federally-funded reproductive health services from going into effect — preserving, for now, funding that keeps those services available for people who couldn’t otherwise afford care.

The suit, filed on April 12, challenged new regulations for Title X, a federal program specifically created to fund contraceptive access and reproductive health care to people with low incomes, which includes 16,000 people in Baltimore annually. The regulations, which reproductive health-care advocates call a gag rule, would ban clinics receiving Title X funds from telling patients how to obtain abortions or from referring patients to abortion providers. In addition, regulations would require Title X clinics to have separate facilities for abortion-related services (the procedure itself and counseling and referrals) and all other services. The costs of complying with these restrictions would have dire consequences for Baltimore, according to the city and the legal clinic.

“By imposing costly and unnecessary infrastructure requirements on Title X clinics, and by requiring clinic medical providers to violate their professional ethics and direct pregnant patients away from abortion and toward prenatal care regardless of the patients’ wishes, the new regulations would force Title X grantees to forego the funding and close their doors,” said Faren Tang ’18, the Reproductive Justice Fellow helping supervise the case.

Judge Richard D. Bennett of the United States District Court for the District of Maryland wrote in his ruling on May 30 that the regulations likely violated provisions of the Affordable Care Act and the Continuing Appropriations Act, and would cause irreparable harm to the city if implemented. In the suit, the city argued that without the $1.4 million in Title X funding Baltimore providers receive, clinics would close and thousands of people would be without access to family planning, cancer screening and other preventive health services. The city also argued that the regulations violate several federal statutes, including Title X itself, and are an unconstitutional infringement on the rights to free speech, sex equality, and abortion access.

The suit by Baltimore is the one of several brought by Title X providers, including Planned Parenthood and a number of states. The ruling in the Baltimore case does not address enforcement outside of Maryland. On April 25, a federal judge in Washington State issued a nationwide injunction against the regulations, which would have gone into effect May 3.

Representing the city of Baltimore, Yale Law School’s Reproductive Rights and Justice Project joined city Solicitor Andre M. Davis, the lead attorney for the case, as well as Andrew Tutt ’13, Drew Harker of Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, and Stephanie Toti of The Lawyering Project.

Clinic members Becca Steinberg ’20, Sofea Dil ’21, Melanie Sava ’20, Rachel Kogan ’19, Erica Turret ’20, Alex Boudreau ’21, Erica Chae ’20, Becca Steele ’21 and Lisa Hansmann ’21 worked on the case under the supervision of clinic faculty Faren Tang ’18 and Priscilla Smith ’91.

The Reproductive Rights and Justice Project at Yale Law School gives students firsthand experience in fast-paced litigation and timely and strategic advocacy in a highly contested area of the law. Students advocate for reproductive health-care providers and their patients, and have an opportunity to develop non-litigation skills through legislative and regulatory work, public education, and strategic planning at the federal, state, and local level.

This story, originally posted after the suit was filed on April 12, 2019, was updated to include the May 30, 2019 ruling.