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Federal judge blocks Trump administration rule affecting abortion referrals in Baltimore

A federal judge temporarily blocked Trump administration rules aimed at steering money away from organizations in Baltimore that provide abortion referrals.

The rules issued in March apply to so-called Title X family planning funding, and city officials who brought the lawsuit against the administration say they could cost Baltimore $1.4 million and have real health consequences for women.

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Federal rules already banned groups such as Planned Parenthood from using the funds for abortions, but the rules issued in March by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services went a step further, banning even referrals.

“Judge [Richard] Bennett's injunction is an important first step in our fight against this Title X regulation, which violates the Constitution and several other federal laws,” said Andre M. Davis, city solicitor, in a statement. “We will continue to oppose this administration’s unlawful and costly federal regulations that endanger the health of our residents.”

The rules were pushed by those who oppose abortion and want clear lines between groups that get federal funding and those that provide abortions. But the move was seen as a possible way for health care providers who oppose abortion to receive funding under the program.

Maryland and other states have sued to stop the rules, which some protesters have taken to calling gag rules, but the U.S. District court judge in Maryland issued a narrow injunction for the city as the lawsuit plays out in court.

Title X money provides health care for about 16,000 patients in Baltimore, city officials say. They fear the rule would mean more unintended pregnancies and more undiagnosed cancers and promote the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

"This week's ruling is a win for public health and for Baltimore City residents," said Dr. Letitia Dzirasa, Baltimore’s health commissioner. "We know that those most affected by the proposed rule are families with the least access to resources, especially those who are uninsured. We simply cannot politicize health care services and this preliminary injunction is the right decision for equitably delivered, high quality healthcare."

A Health and Human Services spokesperson declined to comment.

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