The nation's largest doctors' group on Thursday asked the Supreme Court to strike down a Trump administration rule that's had a far-reaching impact on family planning by prohibiting taxpayer-funded clinics from referring women for abortions.
The American Medical Association acted after two U.S. appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of the restrictions, which apply to clinics that mainly serve low-income women. "We do think this conflict needs to be resolved and we need to figure out how to deliver services under a program that has had bipartisan support for decades," said AMA President Dr. Susan Bailey.
The AMA's move will raise the profile of a reproductive rights issue overshadowed by bigger election-year battles. The recent death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has prompted speculation that a more conservative court could overturn the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, as well as the Obama health law that expanded coverage and made birth control free for most women.
But the changes to Title X, as the federal family planning program is known, are already in effect. Last year the Trump administration finalized a rule that prohibits clinics from referring women for abortions and imposes other restrictions, including a requirement for financial and physical separation of family planning facilities from ones that provide abortions.
As a result, about 1 in 5 of some 4,000 clinics receiving federal funds left the program, including Planned Parenthood. Advocates say the exodus has disrupted care for women who receive birth control and routine medical attention from the clinics. The program usually serves some 4 million clients, and the AMA says that was down about 20% last year.