Maine Family Planning v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Primary Content

(REVISED 8.20.2020) Just days after the Trump Administration published its Domestic Gag Rule, the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a case on behalf of Maine Family Planning (MFP)--the largest reproductive health care organization in the state and its sole Title X family planning program grantee--asking the District Court of Maine to block the rule, parts of which take effect on May 3, 2019. If enacted, the rule could eliminate 85% of abortion clinics in the state of Maine, with all but one of MFP’s 18 clinics being forced to cease abortion services.

The Domestic Gag Rule will:

  • Force healthcare providers that receive federal funding like MFP to stop performing abortions, even though no federal funds are used to finance abortion.
  • Prohibit doctors at these facilities from making referrals to abortion providers, even when the patient has already decided to have an abortion and directly asks for a referral.
  • Force doctors to instead give all pregnant patients prenatal referrals, even when the patient doesn’t want one.
  • Give Title X funding to non-medical organizations known as “crisis pregnancy centers”, which are designed to look like medical clinics but aim to deter women from getting abortions.

The Title X program was created nearly 50 years ago to ensure low-income Americans can afford birth control and other reproductive healthcare. Each year, the Title X program provides 4 million low-income patients with affordable birth control, STD testing, cancer screenings and more. In fact, 60% of women get their usual medical care from a Title X-supported healthcare center. In Maine, 23,800 low-income people receive Title X services every year, the large majority of which are women seeking birth control. Independent providers around the country, like MFP, serve a crucial role in making this healthcare available and affordable to women and families.

Plaintiff(s):   The Family Planning Association of Maine d/b/a Maine Family Planning 

Center Attorney(s):  Emily Nestler

Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Emily Ullman and Jennifer Saperstein with Covington & Burling LLP; Richard O’Meara with Murray Plumb & Murray


We filed our complaint in federal district court on March 6, 2019 and filed our request for a preliminary injunction on March 25. Our request was denied July 3, and Maine Family Planning has withdrawn from the Title X program for the time being. In January 2020, the federal government filed a motion to dismiss the case or grant summary judgment in the government’s favor. We filed a cross-motion for summary judgment and on June 9, the district court granted the federal government’s motion to dismiss the case.  We have filed a notice of appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.