A United States federal appeals court said on Thursday that new Trump administration rules imposing additional hurdles for women seeking abortions can take effect while the government appeals decisions that blocked them.
The new rules ban taxpayer-funded clinics from making abortion referrals and prohibit clinics that receive federal money from sharing office space with abortion providers – a rule that critics said would force many to find new locations, undergo expensive remodels or shut down. Many considered the rules an attack on Planned Parenthood.
More than 20 states and several civil rights and health organisations challenged the rules in cases filed in Oregon, Washington and California.
Judges in all three states blocked the rules from taking effect, with Oregon and Washington judges issuing nationwide injunctions. One judge called the new policy “madness”.
But a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco called the rules a “reasonable” interpretation of a federal law that prohibits taxpayer-funded health clinics from advocating, encouraging or promoting abortion.
The panel said the lower courts appeared to have gotten the rulings wrong, and it granted a stay of those orders requested by the Justice Department. That allows the rules to take effect while the government appeals the lower court rulings.
“We are pleased that the 9th Circuit has cleared the way for this important executive branch action to take effect while our appeals are pending,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in an emailed statement to the Associated Press. “The Department of Justice’s position is supported by long-standing Supreme Court precedent and we are confident we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”