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AG Nessel Fights to Protect Funding for Women's Health, Reproductive Care

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel joined a multistate coalition of 24 attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in the case Ohio v. Becerra, opposing the plaintiffs' efforts to halt implementation of the new Title X rule promulgated in 2021 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The 2021 rule removes harmful restrictions put in place by the Trump Administration and will result in the distribution of Title X funds to a greater number of family planning and related preventive health service providers that deliver care to millions of low-income or uninsured individuals and others. 

Title X is the only federal grant program that funds family planning and counseling programs to help patients access contraception, as well as breast and cervical cancer screenings, screenings and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, and other related health services.  

The brief - filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio - supports the new HHS rule, issued in 2021, that broadens the scope of federal grants under Title X, in part, by eliminating the harmful provisions of the 2019 Trump Administration rule - also known as the "gag rule."  

"The 2019 gag rule was one of many attempts by the previous administration to undermine valuable health programming for some of our most vulnerable populations," Nessel said. "It is absolutely imperative that we ensure broad access to the vitally important health care supported by Title X funds." 

The 2019 rule 1) imposed onerous requirements for physical separation between abortion and non-abortion services at clinics that provided abortion services and 2) prohibited clinicians from providing referrals to abortion providers, even when directly requested by the patient. By contrast, under HHS's 2021 rule, Title X funds can, once again, go to clinics that do not physically separate non-abortion and abortion services, and that provide referrals to abortion providers at a patient's request. The coalition's brief argues for the court to reject a request by a group of plaintiff states for a preliminary injunction of the 2021 rule. 

The coalition of attorneys general argues that the plaintiffs' proposed injunction would put patients and providers in harm's way by returning to the 2019 Trump Administration rule, which caused dramatic loss of Title X providers and a substantial decrease in patient visits and health care services provided. Underserved communities were especially impacted by the loss of essential care, particularly low-income individuals, minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, individuals living with disabilities, minors, and those living in rural areas. 

The 2021 HHS rule allows lost providers to reenter the Title X program. The new rule also improves client outcomes by providing greater access to and a wider range of health care services and promotes health equity by emphasizing efforts to reach underserved communities.  

Joining Attorney General Nessel in filing this brief are the attorneys general of California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.