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SAN FRANCISCO -- A federal judge in Oregon will block President Donald Trump's policy of prohibiting taxpayer-funded health care providers from referring pregnant women to abortion clinics, the state's top legal officer said.

U.S. District Judge Michael McShane said during a hearing Tuesday in Portland, Ore., that he will bar the government from enforcing its Title X "gag rule," Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum said in a tweet.

"He basically determined the rule is contrary to law and that it, at a minimum, violates the Affordable Care Act," Rosenblum said, adding that McShane described the rule as a "ham-fisted approach."

McShane made the comments after more than three hours of arguments in a lawsuit filed by 20 states and the District of Columbia, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

The judge is expected to issue a written decision later. The U.S. Justice Department declined to comment.

Opponents of the administration's rules say they will ensure that Planned Parenthood and other health providers that offer abortion services are cut off from hundreds of millions of dollars of federal funding.

But Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, has said the rule "simply clarifies that abortion is not an appropriate method of family planning."

"The difference between the two is profound," Ferguson said. "Title X money is appropriated by Congress for preventative family-planning services and was never meant to subsidize abortion clinics."

Under the rules, providers that also perform abortions must ensure those facilities are physically and financially separate from the clinics that get Title X funds. The rules also prohibit recipients from referring pregnant women for abortions and do away with previous requirements that providers give "nondirective" counseling, meaning they could neither encourage nor discourage women from getting abortions.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act included language barring the Health and Human Services Department from issuing any regulation that "interferes with communications regarding a full range of treatment options between the patient and the provider." The health care law also forbids regulations that create "unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care."

Rosenblum said the Affordable Care Act language came up repeatedly during Tuesday's oral arguments. "We consider this a win," she said.

Information for this article was contributed by Kartikay Mehrotra of Bloomberg News; by Paige Winfield Cunningham of The Washington Post; and by staff members of The Associated Press.

A Section on 04/25/2019

Print Headline: Judge says he'll block abortion-referral ban

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