A new federal court ruling could push abortion access up to the Supreme Court — again

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Since coming into office, President Trump has steadily chipped away at reproductive rights in the United States. Last year, Trump passed restrictions on federal funding that explicitly targeted abortion providers. Now, a federal court's blocking of the Trump administration's "gag rule" may bring abortion access before the Supreme Court once again.

The ruling is in response to the Trump administration's attack on Title X. In 1970, the United States enacted Title X as part of the Public Health Service Act. It is the only federal program that provides family planning services for millions of low-income patients, including contraception and health screenings. Now, let's be clear: The program did not fund abortions, because providers who participated in it couldn't use federal money to fund them.

However, that didn't stop the Trump administration from going after Title X with its domestic gag rule. Essentially, the policy completely prohibits abortion providers from receiving Title X funds. In response, a number of Democratic governors threatened to pull their states from the program in 2018. The following year, Planned Parenthood actually did so and withdrew itself from the Title X program.

Still, the policy hasn't gone away, and on Thursday a federal court in Maryland weighed in. There, Judge Stephanie Tracker of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote that the administration's policy was "promulgated in an arbitrary and capricious manner because it failed to recognize and address the ethical concerns of literally every major medical organization in the country". In addition, Tracker said it "arbitrarily estimated the cost of the physical separation of abortion services." Under the policy, clinics would need to have a separate facility and staff to split up their abortion and family planning services.

The Trump administration's policy has been the subject of numerous lawsuits already. This ruling in particular is important, though, because it contradicts a decision earlier this year by the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, whch ruled that the Trump administration could enforce its regulations. With the dueling decisions on the books, the Supreme Court could decide to take up the issue.

For abortion providers and advocates, that may be something to avoid, though. As Politico reported, it's expected that the current roster of conservative justices would decide to uphold Trump's rules.