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Appeals court rules in Biden’s favor on abortion referrals

The court denied a request by the 12 states to pause rules for the federal government’s family planning program while their case is heard.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — Federally funded family planning clinics can continue to make abortion referrals for now, a federal court ruled Tuesday, in a setback for a dozen Republican attorneys general who have sued to restore a Trump-era ban on the practice.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati denied a request by the 12 states to pause rules for the federal government’s family planning program while their case is heard. The states were eager to stop implementation before the next round of federal grants starts rolling out in March.

At issue are new rules from President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services that returned the federal family planning program, called Title X, to how it ran under the Obama administration, when clinics were able to refer women seeking abortions to a provider.

Rules that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who brought the lawsuit, wants permanently reinstated were put into place in 2019 under former President Donald Trump. One required federally funded family planning clinics to be physically and financially independent of abortion clinics. The other required them to refrain from referring patients for abortions.

He argues the rules were intended as firewalls between family planning clinics, which can receive taxpayer funding, and their abortion services, which cannot.

U.S District Judge Timothy Black rejected that argument in a ruling last month, denying a preliminary injunction that would have temporarily paused the rules. The 12 states appealed his decision to the 6th Circuit. which said they failed to prove they’d be irreparably harmed by the rules going into effect.

States joining the challenge are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina and West Virginia. Not all states participate in Title X.

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