A federal judge on Thursday granted a preliminary injunction to block all provisions of the Trump administration's regulations on the Title X family planning program from taking effect.
The rule, which would ban clinicians from directly referring patients for abortions, cannot be implemented on May 3 as scheduled.
Another provision, not scheduled to take effect until next year, would essentially ban Planned Parenthood from Title X networks by requiring grantee clinics to "maintain physical and financial separation from locations" that offer abortion.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Stanley Bastian of in Washington state will also accelerate several parallel lawsuits, which could also factor into the rule's fate.
Judge Bastian presided over more than three hours of arguments by the state of Washington, the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and the Justice Department. He issued the ruling from the bench, and will follow up with a written order.
"We were not expecting a ruling today, but he came back and read from a lengthy handwritten statement going through why he believed the plaintiffs had succeeded on all four requirements for a preliminary injunction," Family planning association President Clare Coleman said after the decision. The association has members in every state, which Judge Bastian said made a national injunction appropriate, she said.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in Oregon granted an injunction from the bench in an Oregon-led lawsuit filed by more than 20 states and the American Medical Association. However, he told the court he wasn't ready to decide whether the injunction should have nationwide effect.
HHS said in the rule that this provision addresses "concerns over the fungibility of Title X resources and the potential use of Title X resources to support programs where, among other things, abortion is a method of family planning."
But the AMA and many other clinician groups have homed in on the rule's mandate against any direct abortion referrals. AMA President Dr. Barbara McAneny called the provision a "blatant violation of patients' rights" under the code of medical ethics.
Late last month, HHS' Office of Population Affairs awarded the Title X grants, including to Planned Parenthood affiliates already in a Title X network. But four affiliates—in Hawaii, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin and Virginia—lost their funding.
This latest grant period launched April 1 and is slated to run for three years, although the Trump administration last year realigned the grants by shortening the funding cycle so that all the existing recipients would have to reapply for this fiscal year.
Planned Parenthood President Dr. Leana Wen said the organization won't take part in the Title X program if the regulation stands, which puts the future of the network in the hands of the courts.
The Trump administration has also fielded litigation from Planned Parenthood affiliates, the American Civil Liberties Union and others over its revised funding criteria that encouraged the Title X grantees to offer alternatives to hormonal birth control for contraception.
In November, HHS released guidance to clarify that every Title X recipient must include a clinic in its network that offers hormonal birth control.