Judge blasts Trump for trying to silence doctors: 'This is madness'

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A federal judge in Oregon just stopped the Trump administration from implementing its harmful rule restricting what reproductive health information doctors can provide to their patients.

For the second time in just a week, a federal judge has issued a nationwide injunction against Trump's new "gag rule" — so named because it seeks to block doctors from being fully able to speak with their patients about reproductive health options.

On Monday, Judge Michael McShane of Oregon blocked the gag rule from going into effect nationwide. This follows close on the heels of a similar ruling from Judge Stanley Bastian, a federal judge in Washington State, who also granted a preliminary injunction request in a lawsuit jointly brought by the state and reproductive rights groups.

Initially, it was unclear if McShane was going to grant a nationwide injunction or only enjoin the rule in the 20 states that had brought the lawsuit. However, his ruling left no doubt as to why he felt a nationwide injunction was necessary.

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The rule that the Trump administration had proposed would have drastically punished medical professionals who perform abortions, stripping them of federal funds. Worse, it would have punished medical professionals simply for even discussing the full range of reproductive health options with their patients.

McShane found this outrageous, and rightly so. His ruling called out the Trump administration for inserting the government between a patient and their health care professionals:

[T]he Gag Rule prevents doctors from behaving like informed professionals. It prevents counselors from providing comprehensive counseling. It prevents low-income women from making an informed and independent medical decision. At the heart of this rule is the arrogant assumption that government is better suited to direct the health care of women than their medical providers.

The judge also noted the proposed rule was utterly unnecessary, calling it "a solution in search of a problem."

The administration had insisted that the gag rule was necessary to ensure that no federal funds appropriated under Title X were used for abortions, which is currently illegal.

However, McShane pointed out, "despite the nearly fifty-year history of Title X, [the administration] cannot point to one instance where Title X funds have been misapplied under past or current rules."

McShane didn't just find that the rule lacked any apparent necessity or justification. He also pointed out that, were it to be implemented as the administration wished, the rule would be something out of "a Kafka novel."

[I]f a woman seeks to have a legal abortion and requests a referral from her Title X provider, the Final Rule requires a referral for prenatal care. That is, the provider is mandated to refuse to provide the referral the client wants, and instead provide a referral the client neither needs nor requested...Amazingly, the Final Rule allows the provider, at its whim, to refer the woman not to an abortion clinic, but to an adoption agency....Or the provider may provide a list of primary care providers, none of whom actually perform abortions.

As McShane said elsewhere in the opinion: "This is madness." He likened the process to visiting his urologist's office for a vasectomy, only to instead be given a list of fertility clinics instead.

Under both this and the ruling from Washington, the administration is now prohibited from implementing the gag rule anywhere in the United States.

That the federal government will appeal is inevitable — but at least for the moment, this Kafkaesque and maddening rule is stopped in its tracks.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.