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Minnesota, 19 other states sue Trump administration over abortion 'gag rule'

ST. PAUL — Minnesota is one of 20 states suing President Trump’s administration to block a new rule that would bar Planned Parenthood and other federally funded health clinics from talking with patients about abortion.

The lawsuit, filed in an Oregon U.S. District Court, alleges that a new “gag rule” imposed on recipients of federal Title X family planning funding is an overreach of power and will deprive women of “medically sound, unbiased and affordable health care.”

“My job is to help Minnesotans afford their lives and live with dignity,” Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said in a statement. “This rule makes it harder for people, especially women, to do both. That’s why I’m joining this effort to fight it.”

The new rule, which was finalized Monday, March 4, but will not be implemented until May 3, bars recipients of Title X family planning funds from discussing abortion with patients or referring them to abortion providers.

The Title X program provided Minnesota with $2.2 million in 2018 and $3.2 million in 2017 for family planning and preventive health care services for about 55,000 people. Residents with low incomes and in rural parts of the state were more likely to need those federally funded services, Ellison said.

Planned Parenthood of Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota, and Saint Paul-Ramsey County Public Health Department were prime recipients of Title X family planning grants, he added.

"We’re grateful the newly elected attorney general is standing strong for Minnesota women’s health and rights," said Jen Aulwes, spokeswoman for the local Planned Parenthood affiliate.

Anti-abortion advocates have praised the rule change. Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, said it returned federal rules to a “...previous policy that prevents federal dollars from being used to directly or indirectly promote abortion.”

But the states’ lawsuit says otherwise. Ellison and other attorneys general argue the change goes against the neutral counseling policy included in the grant since 1996.

A federal law called the Hyde Amendment already prohibits federal taxpayer money from being used to fund abortions except to save the life of the mother or in cases of incest or rape.

Groups representing pediatricians, gynecologists, obstetricians and other medical professionals called for the administration to retract the new rule. They warned it could endanger patients’ lives.

“There is no room for politics in the exam room,” the groups said in a statement. “For the health of the American people, every individual must have access to comprehensive, affordable care in a safe and timely fashion, just as every provider must be able to deliver medically accurate information and care.”

Joining Minnesota and Oregon in the lawsuit are Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

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