By Nate Raymond
(Reuters) – Two organizations that support birth control filed lawsuits on Wednesday seeking to block the Trump administration from shifting a federal family-planning grant program toward prioritizing groups that are faith-based and counsel abstinence.
The lawsuits were filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by Planned Parenthood and the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and target guidelines the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued in February.
Those guidelines set forth new criteria for how the department under Republican President Donald Trump would assess applications for grants under the Title X family planning program. The grants are expected to total $260 million.
Planned Parenthood, whose health centers serve more than 40 percent of patients receiving care subsidized by Title X, in its lawsuit contended that the changes violate the law that created the program and were “arbitrary and capricious.”
“Planned Parenthood is going to court to stop the Trump-Pence administration from trying to impose its ideology on people,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement.
Trump’s Vice President Mike Pence, a former Indiana governor and strident opponent of abortion, has pushed Congress to defund Planned Parenthood. The non-profit’s clinics provide contraception, health screenings and abortions.
HHS did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
(Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston; Editing by Susan Thomas)