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The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday blocked the enforcement of the Trump administration's rules that prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics under the Title X program in Maryland from providing or making abortion referrals.

Why it matters: Thursday's decision in the Virginia-based federal court is at odds with a ruling in the California-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the rules and allowed them to take effect. The division means the Supreme Court may be more likely to take up the issue.

What they're saying: The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Trump administration "failed to recognize and address the ethical concerns of literally every major medical organization in the country," and "arbitrarily estimated the cost" to clinics in implementing the rules.

Context: Title X is a $286 million federal family planning program that primarily serves low-income individuals.

  • Last year, Planned Parenthood and some states withdrew from the program to avoid complying with the Trump administration's rule changes.
  • Abortion rights supporters have referred to the changes as a "gag rule," saying the orders hurt the relationship between women and their doctors, who have to limit the information they can provide. They also say the rules would force some abortion providers to shut down or undergo expensive remodels, hurting access to reproductive health services broadly.
  • Abortion rights opponents have long argued that the Title X program indirectly subsidizes abortion services. Providers were already barred from using federal funds for abortion services.

Of note: Thursday's decision, which involved a lawsuit by Baltimore's mayor and city council, only applies to the state of Maryland.

  • "Today’s ruling will continue to prevent this terrible rule from further harming family planning providers and their patients across the state of Maryland. Unfortunately, the court did not take the opportunity to bring the desperately needed relief to the nationwide family planning provider network that is appropriate under and required by federal law," Clare Coleman, president and CEO of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement.

Go deeper: Read the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling.

Go deeper

Ben Geman, author of Generate
Sep 24, 2020 - Energy & Environment

California war over gas-free cars

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

The fate of California's aggressive moves to wring carbon emissions out of transportation could depend heavily on the election and the shape of the Supreme Court.

Why it matters: California is the country's largest auto market and transportation is the country's largest source of CO2.

Updated 6 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Bomb cyclone prompts blizzard warnings from Virginia to Maine

Computer model projection showing the intense storm off of Cape Cod on Jan 29, 2022, with heavy snow and strong winds lashing the coastline. (Weatherbell.com)

Blizzard warnings are in effect for 11 million people from coastal Virginia to eastern Maine as a powerful and potentially historic winter storm is set to slam the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast beginning Friday.

Why it matters: The storm will bring an array of hazards, from zero visibility amid hurricane force wind gusts and heavy snow to coastal flooding that will erode vulnerable beaches and threaten coastal property from the Jersey shore to coastal Massachusetts.

Republican-led Pennsylvania court deems mail-in voting law unconstitutional

Workers count ballots for the 2020 Presidential election at the Philadelphia Convention Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S., on Nov. 3, 2020. Photo: Hannah Yoon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Republican-led Pennsylvania court on Friday ruled that the state's mail-in voting law is unconstitutional.

Driving the news: Three Republican judges sided with Republican challengers and ruled that no-excuse mail-in voting is prohibited under the state's constitution. Two Democrats on the panel dissented.

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