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Baltimore seeks injunction against federal family planning rule

Baltimore has filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to prevent a federal regulation from being implemented in the city that would prohibit family planning clinics receiving federal money from making abortion referrals.

The federal Title X program, enacted in 1970, makes family planning services available to low-income individuals for free or at low cost.

Title X clinics in Baltimore serve more than 16,000 patients each year with family planning, cancer screening and other preventive health services, according to a news release from ex-officio Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s office.

The impending federal regulation would place “unnecessary infrastructure requirements” on Title X clinics and require medical staff to direct patients away from abortion and toward prenatal care, the news release states.

In addition, Baltimore family-planning clinics would lose $1.4 million in Title X funding used for reproductive health services, according to the release. As a result, it said, the city would incur greater health care costs due to unintended pregnancies, cancers not detected in early stages, the spread of sexually transmitted diseases and delayed prenatal care, among other consequences.

“An end to Title X funding would have a devastating impact on the residents served,” Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Letitia Dzirasa said in the news release. “As a Health Department, we cannot stand idly by as funding is being pulled. We will continue to pursue justice in this case on behalf of the residents of Baltimore City.”

In the lawsuit filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, the city alleges the impending federal regulation would violate several federal statutes, including provisions of the Affordable Care Act, Title X itself, the Administrative Procedures Act, and the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and also infringes on the rights to free speech, sex equality and abortion access.

“This Health and Human Services regulation for Title X clinics is contrary to its enabling statute which for decades has increased access to reproductive health services. It is also unlawful because it violates the Constitution and several other federal laws,” City Solicitor Andre M. Davis said in Young’s news release. “We look forward to our day in court.”

Earlier this month, the Maryland legislature passed a bill to prevent the state’s Department of Health from accepting Title X money if it would exclude family planning providers and medically approved services.

In March, Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh joined a coalition of 31 state attorneys general in filing a lawsuit in federal court in Oregon challenging the constitutionality of the new Title X rule. The lawsuit was led by Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The case is Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar et al., Case No. 1:19-cv-01103-RDB.

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