PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A U.S. judge in Oregon said Tuesday he intends to at least partially block a rule change by President Donald Trump’s administration that could cut off federal funding for providers who refer patients for an abortion, though the scope of his decision remains to be seen.
U.S. District Judge Michael McShane made the comments after more than three hours of arguments in a lawsuit brought by 20 states and the District of Columbia, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported . The states say the rule change, due to take effect May 3, is a transparent attack on Planned Parenthood and a violation of the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits “unreasonable barriers to the ability of individuals to obtain appropriate medical care.”
“At the heart of these rules is an arrogant assumption that the government is better suited to direct women’s health care than their providers,” Oregon Public Broadcasting quoted the judge as saying.
McShane said he needs more time to decide whether he will issue a national injunction or a more limited one blocking the policy from taking effect. The judge said he’s reluctant to set national health care policy and would describe the scope of his injunction in a written opinion soon.
“We will need to see what the final ruling says,” Oregon Justice Department spokeswoman Kristina Edmunson said in an email. “We are pleased with the decision.”
Under the new policy, health care providers that receive federal funding would be barred from referring patients for an abortion. Programs that receive the money would also have to be in a separate physical space from facilities where abortion is performed.
The rule change announced early this year concerns Title X, a family planning program created in 1970 which serves roughly 4 million low-income Americans every year. Clinics that receive money under Title X provide a wide array of services, including birth control and screening for diabetes, sexually transmitted diseases and cancer.
Abortion is a legal medical procedure, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman. Religious conservatives and abortion opponents have long complained that Title X has been used to indirectly subsidize abortion providers.
“Title X grant funds are a true safety net for low income individuals and those who would not be able to access care, due to a lack of insurance or other barriers,” Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum told the judge. “Put simply, this is an attempt to politicize what has been a successful, non-political public health program for 50 years.”
U.S. Justice Department lawyer Andrew M. Bernie said there was nothing in the administrative record to suggest the change was politically motivated.
But the judge was not swayed. McShane suggested it would be “insane” for a man to go to his doctor seeking a vasectomy, only to be referred to a fertility clinic.
Several other lawsuits have also challenged the new policy. California and Washington have sued separately; arguments in the latter case are scheduled for Thursday in U.S. District Court in Yakima.
Appeals Court Rejects Chelsea Manning’s Effort To Leave Jail
FALLS CHURCH, Va. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Monday rejected a bid by former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to be released from jail for refusing to testify to a grand jury investigating Wikileaks.
The three-paragraph, unanimous decision from a three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond rejects both Manning’s argument that she was erroneously found in civil contempt of court and her request for bail while the contempt decision is litigated.
Manning has been jailed at the Alexandria Detention Center since March 8 after refusing to testify to the Wikileaks grand jury.
Since her incarceration, criminal charges against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange have been unsealed and U.S. officials have requested his extradition . Manning’s lawyers argued that her testimony is unnecessary in part because Assange has already been charged.
Manning served seven years in a military prison for leaking a trove of military and diplomatic documents to Wikileaks before then-President Barack Obama commuted the remainder of her 35-year sentence.
Manning’s lawyers also argued that she told authorities everything she knew during her court-martial investigation and that her incarceration was unnecessarily cruel because the jail is unable to provide adequate medical care in connection with gender-reassignment surgery Manning underwent.
Prosecutors responded that they believe Manning, who was granted immunity for her grand jury testimony, may have more to say about her interactions with Wikileaks than has been previously disclosed, and that Manning is out of line for disrupting the grand jury process simply on her speculation that she is being singled out for harassment. They also say that the jail has gone out of its way to accommodate her medical needs.
Prosecutors have called Manning’s leak to Wikileaks one of the largest compromises of classified information in U.S. history.
Monday’s opinion was issued by judges Allyson Duncan, a George W. Bush appointee; Paul Niemayer, a George H.W. Bush appointee; and Robert King, a Bill Clinton appointee.
Manning said in a statement issued through her legal team that she is considering an appeal to either the full 4th Circuit or to the Supreme Court.
“I don’t have anything to contribute to this, or any other grand jury,” she said. “While I miss home, they can continue to hold me in jail, with all the harmful consequences that brings. I will not give up.”
Her lawyer, Moira Meltzer-Cohen, said she does not believe Manning’s testimony is necessary to the grand jury.
“The likely purpose for her subpoena is to help the prosecutor preview and undermine her potential testimony as a defense witness for a pending trial” of Assange, she said.
Under the terms of the judge’s contempt finding, Manning will remain jailed until she agrees to testify or until the grand jury’s term is concluded. That date is unknown.
Federal Appeals Court Backs California Laws To Protect Immigrants
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — A federal appeals court on Thursday kept in place three California laws intended to protect immigrants, continuing the state’s efforts to be a national leader in opposing Trump administration policies.
The court upheld lower court rulings denying the Trump administration’s request to block law enforcement from providing release dates and personal information of people in jail, as well as to throw out a law barring employers from allowing immigration officials on their premises unless the officials have a warrant.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected U.S. District Judge John Mendez’s reasoning last year for denying a portion of the third law, which requires the state to review detention facilities where immigrants are held. It ruled that the section requiring the state to review circumstances surrounding the apprehension and transfer of detainees puts an impermissible burden on the federal government.
But the appellate panel said Mendez can consider rejecting a preliminary injunction for that section on other legal grounds.
The U.S. Justice Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has repeatedly sued the Trump administration mostly over immigration and environmental decisions, said the ruling shows that states’ rights “continue to thrive.”
“We continue to prove in California that the rule of law not only stands for something but that people cannot act outside of it,” Becerra said in a statement.
California officials have said the immigration laws promote trust between immigrant communities and law enforcement, while the administration argued the state is allowing dangerous criminals on the streets.
US Judge Issues Injunction Against Trump Asylum Policy, Effective Friday
Washington (CNN/Reuters/Vox) — A federal judge in California on Monday blocked the Trump administration’s policy of returning some asylum seekers to Mexico to await their immigration court hearing, issuing a major blow to the administration just a day after the Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign.
The preliminary injunction on the policy is nationwide and is slated to go into effect on April 12.
Nielsen recently ordered that the policy be expanded along the southern border in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants to the border.
The ruling removes at least temporarily a controversial Trump administration strategy aimed at slowing a flood of immigrants, many of them families from Central America, that swelled last month to the highest level in a decade.
Because of limits on how long children are legally allowed to be held in detention, many of the families are released to await U.S. immigration court hearings, a process that can take years because of ballooning backlogs.
In response, the Trump administration in January started sending some migrants to wait out their U.S. court dates in Mexican border cities, under a policy known as Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP.
The Department of Homeland Security said last week that it planned to expand the program.
A U.S. Department of Justice spokesman declined to comment. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The new ruling by Judge Richard Seeborg of the Northern District of California, in the lawsuit Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen, requires the administration to allow people who have already been returned to stay in the US after their next court hearings, and to stop returning new people to Mexico under the policy.
The ruling maintains that the Immigration and Nationality Act’s provision allowing the government to return migrants to a “contiguous country” while their cases are pending does not apply to asylum seekers, and that the way the Trump administration was implementing the policy — returning asylum seekers until they met an unusually high standard of proving they would be persecuted in Mexico — failed to protect migrants from danger.
Seeborg said his ruling turned on the narrow question of whether the Trump administration had followed administrative law in implementing the policy.
“The legal question is not whether the MPP is a wise, intelligent, or humane policy, or whether it is the best approach for addressing the circumstances the executive branch contends constitute a crisis,” wrote Seeborg.
The judge said the government shall permit the 11 plaintiffs in the case to enter the United States beginning on Sunday. He said the government still retained the right to detain the asylum-seekers pending the outcome of their case.
MPP was rolled out in January. The government argued it was needed because so many asylum seekers spend years living in the United States and never appear for their court hearings before their claim is denied and an immigration judge orders them to be deported.
MPP was based on a decades-old law that says migrants who enter from a contiguous country can be returned there to wait out their deportation case, although the provision had never been used in the way the administration has applied it.
The other DHS official responsible for overseeing the implementation of the return-to-Mexico policy, US Customs and Immigration Services Director Francis Cissna — whose agency included the asylum officers that engaged in infrequent and unusual screenings of asylum seekers who claimed to be afraid of being returned to Mexico — is reportedly under pressure from Stephen Miller, a Trump aide and immigration hawk, to leave as well.
Civil rights groups sued, arguing the policy violated U.S. and international law by returning refugees to dangerous border towns where they would be unable to get legal counsel or notices of hearings.
The plaintiffs include legal service organizations and migrants who fled Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to escape what they said was extreme violence, rape and death threats.
Apprehensions by border agents were on track to top 100,000 in March, the highest level in a decade, according to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
While illegal border crossings were higher in the early 2000s, most of those apprehended at that time were single men, often from Mexico.
Gabriela Orellana, 26, an asylum seeker from El Salvador who was scheduled to have her first hearing on Tuesday, was delighted by the news of the judge’s ruling.
“I’m crying from happiness,” she told Reuters. She is not one of the plaintiffs in the case.
Orellana said she fled El Salvador with her 8-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son after she was shot by a gang member. She has been in Tijuana since January and has waited nearly two months for her first interview with U.S. immigration authorities.
Read the full, just-released order issuing the injunction below:
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