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Trump administration’s abortion rules can take effect, appeals court says

U.S. President Donald Trump gives a thumbs-up to Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as he leaves after a meeting at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 20, 2019. Carlos Barria/Reuters

A federal appeals court said Thursday new Trump administration rules imposing additional hurdles for women seeking abortions can take effect while the government appeals decisions that blocked them.

More than 20 states and several civil rights and health organizations challenged the rules in cases filed in Oregon, Washington and California. Judges in all three states blocked the rules from taking effect, with Oregon and Washington judges issuing nationwide injunctions. One judge called the new policy “madness.”

READ MORE: How abortion rights work in Canada — and whether they could be put at risk

But a three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco called the rules a “reasonable” interpretation of a federal law that prohibits taxpayer-funded health clinics from advocating, encouraging or promoting abortion.

The panel said the lower courts appeared to have gotten the rulings wrong, and it granted a stay of those orders requested by the Justice Department. That allows the rules to take effect while the government appeals the lower court rulings.

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“We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit has cleared the way for this important executive branch action to take effect while our appeals are pending,” Justice Department spokeswoman Kelly Laco said in an emailed statement. “The Department of Justice’s position is supported by long-standing Supreme Court precedent and we are confident we will ultimately prevail on appeal.”

The new rules ban taxpayer-funded clinics from making abortion referrals and prohibit clinics that receive federal money from sharing office space with abortion providers — a rule critics said would force many to find new locations, undergo expensive remodels or shut down. Many considered the rules an attack on Planned Parenthood.

READ MORE: Here are the U.S. states pushing to ban abortions in 2019

Planned Parenthood said it would immediately ask the 9th Circuit to reconsider the decision.

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“The Trump-Pence administration’s gag rule is unethical, illegal, and harmful to public health,” Dr. Leana Wen, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a written statement. “The news out of the 9th Circuit this morning is devastating for the millions of people who rely on Title X health centers for cancer screenings, HIV tests, affordable birth control and other critical primary and preventive care.”

A federal court in Maryland has also issued an order blocking the rules from taking effect, but that ruling only applies in that state. The Justice Department has appealed it.

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