Patient Support & Advocacy

AMA keeps up fight to protect physicians’ freedom of speech

What’s the news: The AMA continues to fight back against a Trump administration physician gag rule after an appellate court ruling lifted a lower court’s injunction blocking implementation of the regulation.

Why it matters to patients and physicians: The decision by a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals three-judge motion panel allows new rules to take effect, threatening physicians’ freedom of speech. The AMA has called the rules unprecedented government interference in the patient-physician relationship.

The regulation affects the Title X family planning program, which ensures that every person has access to basic, preventive reproductive health care such as birth control, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted-infection testing and treatment regardless of economic or insurance status.

The regulation imposes restrictions on physicians’ ability to counsel their patients in the Title X program about the full range of family planning options, including referrals for abortion.

The lawsuit was filed in Oregon and led by the AMA, Planned Parenthood and its local affiliates, and the Oregon Medical Association. The case was later consolidated with other lawsuits that include 20 states, the District of Columbia and individual health professionals.

The appellate ruling overturns an earlier decision by U.S. District Judge Michael McShane in Portland, Oregon, who agreed with the AMA position and wrote a strongly worded decision condemning what the administration was trying to do.

“This is madness,” McShane wrote. “At the heart of this rule is the arrogant assumption that government is better suited to direct the health care of women than their medical providers.”

What’s next: The ruling was issued by three judges randomly selected out of the 9th District’s 29 presiding judges to decide the case. The AMA and Planned Parenthood filed a motion for emergency reconsideration en banc by a larger panel of judges.

Similar motions were also filed by the states of California, Oregon and Washington and other plaintiff organizations active in the case. The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals is hearing a separate case involving Title X services in Maryland.

The AMA has more resources on the changes to the Title X program, the lawsuit and the fight to protect physicians’ freedom of speech.