SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – Joining Planned Parenthood’s fight against an “immoral” proposal that could deprive women access to contraception and abortion services, California on Monday sued over the Trump administration’s plan to overhaul a landmark family-planning program.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the lawsuit – the state’s 47th against the Trump administration – seeks to stop the federal government from enacting a so-called “gag rule” on Planned Parenthood and other clinics that receive Title X funding.
“Let’s be clear, this isn’t about abortion; Title X funds cannot be used on abortion,” said California first lady Jennifer Siebel Newsom, who announced the lawsuit along with Becerra and the state’s leading female lawmakers. “No, this is about politics and pushing away organizations like Planned Parenthood.”
The rule change announced last month would require Title X recipients to maintain “clear financial and physical separation” from centers that provide abortions. Critics say the proposal could cut health care services to more than 4 million women nationwide, over 1 million of them in California. California clinics receive the largest share of the program, which in 2017 issued more than $285 million nationwide to family planning groups.
Title X, enacted in 1970 by President Richard Nixon, prohibits federal funding of abortions except cases of rape and incest. Recipients use the funding to provide health care services such as preventative care, cancer testing, birth control and sexually transmitted disease testing.
Under the new rule, any group that performs or refers patients for abortion services would be ineligible for Title X money. The rule would go into effect 60 days after being published in the Federal Register.
During a press conference at the state Capitol Monday, a group of California lawmakers painted the gag rule as a clear attack on not just Planned Parenthood, but as an intrusion on women’s health and privacy. They added that if approved, the rule change could force a barrage of job losses and likely closures at California’s 350-plus Title X clinics.
State Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, said the move will force low-income women considering abortions to resort to dangerous alternatives if they can’t freely consult with doctors.
“Making it harder for a woman to get an abortion doesn’t mean it won’t happen – it just means more women are going to die,” Leyva warned. “We’re going to tell the White House that we’re tired of two old white guys telling us what we can do with our bodies.”
U.S. Senator and 2020 presidential hopeful Kamala Harris, D-California, tweeted her disapproval on the Trump administration’s changes.
“The domestic gag rule is a direct assault on women’s health and I will begin the process of undoing it on my first day as president. No doctor should be silenced or intimidated from telling their patients about their health care options,” Harris said in a tweet.
The lawsuit filed in the Northern District of California argues the Title X changes would prevent doctors from giving patients unbiased counseling and from fully informing patients of all their medical options. California is the first state to challenge the Title X changes but others are expected to follow.
Planned Parenthood is backing California’s lawsuit along with Essential Access Health. Last week Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit in state court, accusing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services of withholding public records relating to the Title X proposal.
Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California president and CEO Crystal Strait accused the Trump administration Monday of targeting women who “need help the most.”
“It’s about stigmatizing abortion, it’s about demonizing women, it’s about shutting the door on science-based sex education and it’s about building a wall – a wall between a doctor and her patients,” Strait said to applause from the almost two dozen women behind her on stage.