Office of the Vermont Attorney General

Federal Judge Grants Injunction in Title X Lawsuit

April 30, 2019

Contact: Eleanor Spottswood, Assistant Attorney General, 802-828-3171

 

Judge: Final Rule “Recklessly” Disregards Health Outcomes

Vermont Attorney General T.J. Donovan announced that an Oregon court has enjoined the federal government from implementing a new Title X funding regulation. Vermont joined the lawsuit to protect the basic healthcare needs of 10,000 Vermonters. Title X is the only national federal grant program that is dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and preventative health care, such as cancer screenings. In Vermont, the only recipient of Title X funds are 10 Planned Parenthood health care centers located around the State.

In the decision, Judge Michael J. McShane said, “At best, the Final Rule is a solution in search of a problem. At worst, it is a ham-fisted approach to health policy that recklessly disregards the health outcomes of women, families, and communities.”

Attorney General Donovan explained, “What this ruling means is that 10,000 Vermonters still have access to affordable healthcare.”

Department of Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD greeted the judge’s order with cautious hope for the long-term prospects of Title X: “The administration’s effort to undercut public health care services is misguided and jeopardizes the very health and lives of women in Vermont and across the country. We will continue working to ensure that any future such actions will not diminish access to affordable, quality care in Vermont.”

“We are relieved by this decision that prevents the Trump administration’s medically unethical gag rule from taking effect this week,” said Meagan Gallagher, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England. “For now, the court’s ruling will protect access to birth control, breast and cervical cancer screenings, and STD testing for 10,000 low-income Vermonters who rely on the Title X program for health care. We are grateful to Attorney General Donovan for his continued leadership in fighting for the health and wellbeing of Vermont’s women, men, and families.”

The new rule would have forced Title X providers to give incomplete and misleading information to patients—a “gag rule” on providing services or information related to abortion, even to patients who affirmatively say that they want one. The gag rule would have applied to any “referral partners” of Title X health care centers. The new rule would have stretched Title X funding to try to cover gaps in healthcare created by employers who opt out of providing insurance to cover contraception. The new rule also redefines “family planning” to promote “natural family planning methods” over more effective forms of birth control. The new rule never mentions the CDC’s evidence-based best practices guidelines, “Providing Quality Family Planning Services,” which is the gold standard for healthcare under the old Title X regulations. In addition, the new rule would have required Title X health care centers to be physically located in a separate facility from any abortion provider. Title X funding is not, and never has been, used for abortions.

Vermont has ten health care centers supported by Title X funds, located in Barre, Bennington, Brattleboro, Hyde Park, Rutland, Middlebury, Newport, St. Albans, St. Johnsbury, and White River Junction. All provide crucial basic health care to underserved populations. Funding for each of these health care centers is jeopardized by the new rule. Title X has been providing high quality preventative health care to millions of Americans for decades. Title X funds basic healthcare services, including wellness exams, cervical and breast cancer screenings, birth control, contraception education, and testing for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV.

The court’s decisions can be found here. The federal government has 60 days to appeal the ruling.

Last modified: April 30, 2019