On June 9, U.S. District Judge Lance Walker rejected a lawsuit by Maine Family Planning claiming that the Trump administration’s “Protect Life Rule” violates the First Amendment’s free speech clause.
The rule, finalized by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services in February 2019, prohibits Title X grantees from providing or referring patients for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency. The regulation also requires recipients of Title X federal family planning funds to be physically and financially separate from abortion operations.
Maine Family Planning argued that the “new rule violates medical professionals’ right to free speech because they’re barred from freely discussing abortion with patients.” But Walker disagreed and found that the “rule authorizes nondirective counseling, including abortion counseling; it only prohibits an abortion referral.”
Pro-life organization Susan B. Anthony List applauded the judge’s ruling, posting on Facebook, “This is great news! Abortion is not family planning. It’s family destruction.”
This was the second time Walker allowed the rule to remain in place. Last July, the judge refused to issue an injunction against the rule being followed in Maine.
And in February, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the rule in a 7-4 ruling.
Emily Nestler, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, who represents Maine Family Planning in the lawsuit, said that Walker’s decision might be appealed to the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as “possible legal avenues to keep fighting this unlawful policy” are considered.