Colorado and 19 other Democratic-led states announced challenges Monday to the Trump administration’s new obstacles for women seeking abortions, including barring tax-funded family planning clinics from referring patients to abortion providers.
California filed a federal lawsuit Monday in San Francisco to block the family planning rule by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, announced state Attorney General Xavier Becerra. The rule shifts millions of dollars from Planned Parenthood to faith-based family planning groups.
Colorado and the 19 other states, along with Washington, D.C., said they will sue separately Tuesday in Oregon.
“Title X is a critical source of health care funding in Colorado,” state Attorney General Phil Weiser said in a statement.
“In 2017, Colorado received $3.8 million in federal funding, which provided a range of services — including general health screenings and a broad range of family planning methods — to more than 55,000 Coloradans throughout the state.
“These restrictions threaten to undermine health care providers’ ability to serve their patients professionally. If these rules go into effect, Colorado will see an increase in teen births, unintended pregnancies, and abortions.”
The other states are Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.
Washington’s Democratic attorney general also has said that state will challenge the rule.
Trump administration officials predicted legal challenges to the new rule, which also prohibits federally funded family planning clinics from being housed with abortion providers.
Changes to the federal family planning program are scheduled to take effect.
The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment denounced the new rule, saying it “jeopardizes access to critical reproductive health care services, including cancer screenings, for thousands of Coloradans.”
The new rule “will result in more unintended pregnancies, more sexually transmitted infections, and more early-stage cancers that will go undetected,” said Jill Hunsaker Ryan, CDPHE executive director, in a statement.
The money provides low-cost and free reproductive health care for Coloradans but doesn’t pay for abortion services, the release says. CDPHE uses the Title X funding in addition to $4.1 million in state money to support the Colorado Family Planning Program.
“The program helped cut teen birth and abortion rates in half over the last 10 years,” the release says. “An independent study found the program averted $66.1 million to $69.6 million in potential costs for four state and federal programs that provide health care, food and other assistance to Colorado women and their infants.”
The agency predicted the rule will severely reduce providers. “These prohibitions inappropriately interfere in the physician-patient relationship by compromising the providers’ professional responsibility to provide unbiased care to their patients.” And some clinics could lose Title X funds “because of the confusing and burdensome financial and physical separation requirements.”
Without its skilled and innovative providers, “Colorado will see an increase in teen births, unintended pregnancy and abortion,” the release says. “Colorado will lose the gains we made thanks to expanded contraceptive access.”
But Brittany Raymer, of Colorado Springs-based Focus on the Family, said the new rules “are about accountability and transparency when it comes to separating family-planning services and abortions. I think in this instance, that Colorado probably shouldn’t be joining this lawsuit.
“Physical separations and financial separations are something that, I think, a lot of people have been looking for for many years, because there have been some questions about, ‘Are these funds from Title X supplementing abortion services?,’ which is not what they are meant to do.”
Raymer said the rule is unlikely to limit health care access because many clinics do not provide abortions and therefore won’t be restricted.
“Women will still be able to go to other options that are available to them,” she said.
But when the rule was announced last month, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains decried its potential effect.
“Birth control is health care. Cancer screenings are health care. Reproductive health care is health care, and health care is a human right,” Vicki Cowart, the agency’s president and CEO, said in a statement.
“And this gag rule threatens access to care for millions of people across the country. Here at Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains, our doors are open and we will continue to provide high-quality health care to our patients across our region, no matter what.”
California’s attorney general said the new rule affects 4 million mostly low-income women nationwide and 1 million women in California.
“The Trump-Pence administration has doubled down on its attacks on women’s health,” Becerra said.
Colorado Politics and The Associated Press contributed to this report.