CHICAGO, July 18 (Reuters) - Illinois will defy enforcement of the Trump administration’s rule barring taxpayer-backed family planning clinics from making abortion referrals, the governor said on Thursday, announcing the state plans to step in to fund those clinics.
Governor J.B. Pritzker’s announcement came a month after a federal appeals court cleared the way for the administration to cut off Title X subsidies of reproductive healthcare and family planning costs for low-income women at clinics that refer patients to abortion providers.
Pritzker, a Democrat, said the state would forgo all Title X funding from the federal government while the Republican administration continues to impose its restriction - decried by critics as a “gag rule” designed to silence doctor-patient communications about abortion options.
In the meantime, Pritzer said, the Illinois Department of Public Health will provide funding to the state’s 28 Title X recipients to make up for the estimated $2.4 million in federal dollars they stand to lose under the administration’s rule.
“President Trump’s gag rule undermines women’s health care and threatens the providers that millions of women and girls rely on, and we will not let that stand in the state of Illinois,” the first-year governor said in a statement.
The administration’s policy is aimed at fulfilling Trump’s campaign pledge to end federal support for Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides abortions and other health services for women under Title X.
Federal judges in Washington state, California and Oregon, among nearly two dozen states challenging the administration’s rule in court, issued preliminary injunctions against enforcement of the policy this spring. It had been slated to take effect in May.
But the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on June 20 lifted those injunctions, and the same court rejected emergency bids to overturn its own decision last week. That allows the restrictions to remain in effect while court challenges proceed.
Congress appropriated $286 million in Title X grants in 2017 to Planned Parenthood and other health centers to provide birth control, screening for diseases and other reproductive health and counseling to low-income women.
That funding already was prohibited from being used to pay for abortions, but abortion opponents have long complained that the money in effect subsidizes Planned Parenthood as a whole, including its abortion services.
Planned Parenthood provides healthcare services to about 40% of the 4 million people who rely on Title X funding annually. The organization has argued that community health centers would be unable to absorb its patients if Planned Parenthood were forced out of business. (Reporting by Karen Pierog in Chicago; Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Brown)