A federal judge ruled Tuesday that federally financed family planning clinics can continue to give abortion referrals for the time being, a setback for a dozen Republican attorneys general who sued to reinstate a Trump-era ban on the practise.

The 12 states’ request to stop rules for the federal government’s family planning programme while their lawsuit is heard was refused by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati. The states were keen to put an end to the implementation process before the next batch of federal payments began in March.

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New rules issued by President Joe Biden’s Department of Health and Human Services restored the federal family planning programme, known as Title X, to its previous state under the Obama administration, when clinics may refer women seeking abortions to a provider.

The rules that Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost wants permanently reinstalled were put in place in 2019 under former President Donald Trump, according to Yost. One of the requirements was that federally sponsored family planning clinics be physically and financially separate from abortion facilities. The other stipulated that they not refer patients for abortions.

He claims the laws were designed to act as a barrier between taxpayer-funded family planning clinics and their abortion services, which are not.

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Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and West Virginia are among the states that have signed up for the challenge. Title X does not apply to all states.

In a ruling last month, U.S. District Judge Timothy Black rejected that reasoning, denying a preliminary injunction that would have temporarily halted the restrictions. The 12 states challenged his ruling to the 6th Circuit, which ruled that they had failed to show that the regulations would injure them permanently.

Black said opponents centered their case on a policy disagreement, not a legal one.

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“The principle that money is fungible must have theoretical limits or else no government appropriations for specific purposes could ever be feasible,” Black wrote Dec. 29. “Title X no more subsidizes abortions than funding a homeless shelter subsidizes substance abuse.”

The Trump-era rules were reversed by the Biden administration in October, as political and legal conflicts over abortion intensify amid Republican efforts to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade decision at the Supreme Court.

Yost made it clear that his case does not question Roe v. Wade’s assurance of the right to an abortion.

According to Yost, the Family Planning Services and Population Research Act of 1970 prohibits family planning clinics financed under Title X from utilising public funds for abortions. The Trump-era limitations were only in place for less than two years, during which time 1.5 million fewer patients used Title X-funded services, according to Black.

The program makes available more than $250 million a year to clinics to provide birth control and basic health care services, mainly to low-income women, many of them from minority communities.

The rules established under former President Donald Trump, a Republican, prompted a mass exit by service providers affiliated with Planned Parenthood, as well as several states and other independent organizations.

Groups representing the clinics said they hoped the Biden administration’s reversal would lead some 1,300 local facilities that left in protest to return.

(with inputs from AP)