U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian issued a preliminary injunction to block a new Trump administration rule aimed at keeping Title X fund recipients from engaging in abortion-related activities. Preliminary injunctions keep a new rule from going into effect while a court decides how to resolve legal challenges brought against it. In this case, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule prohibiting the use of Title X funds to perform, promote, or refer for abortion as a family planning method. The rule also requires clear financial and physical separation for clinics conducting Title X and non-Title X activities.
Judge Bastian argued that his injunction was appropriate because the plaintiffs in the case presented facts and arguments supporting the claims that the rule would violate existing laws and regulations, was made in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), and would cause Title X fund recipients to suffer irreparable harm. Bastian also said that the state of Washington showed that it stood to lose over $28 million dollars in savings because “it is not legally or logistically feasible for Washington to continue accepting any Title X funding subject to the Final Rule.” He said one of the plaintiffs, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, represents over 65 Title X grant recipients and that many members of their network would leave once the final rule went into effect, “thereby leaving low-income individuals without Title X providers.” The Title X rule is scheduled to go into effect on May 3, 2019, and more lawsuits against the rule are pending in other courts.
Judge Bastian devoted most of his analysis to the likely effects of the final rule, but his order granting the injunction also mentions the arbitrary-or-capricious test. Under the APA, courts reviewing agency decisions must rule against actions found to be arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, or otherwise not in accordance with law. The people challenging the rule argued that it was “arbitrary and capricious because it reverses long-standing positions of the Department without proper consideration of sound medical opinions and the economic and non-economic consequences.”