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Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar (Maryland)

D. Md. No. 1:19-cv-01103 / 4th Cir. Nos. 19-01614, 20-01215 / Sup. Ct. No. 20-429, 20-454

This case challenges a Final Rule adopted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that imposes restrictions on organizations receiving grants pursuant to Title X of the Public Health Services Act (Title X), 42 U.S.C. §§ 300 -300a-6.

Established in 1970, Title X is a federal grant program dedicated to providing individuals with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.  These services include birth control; wellness exams; cervical and breast cancer screenings; and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  Title X benefits low income people; the uninsured; and communities that have historically faced barriers to healthcare access.  More than four million U.S. residents rely on Title X-funded healthcare providers for affordable birth control and preventive health services.

The restrictions imposed by the Final Rule include a “gag rule” that prohibits recipients of Title X funds from providing their patients with referrals for abortion care, even when a patient specifically requests a referral; and “separation requirements” mandating that recipients of Title X funds be “physically and financially separate” from any person or entity who provides, refers for, or advocates for abortion care, such that they must maintain separate facilities, personnel, medical records, workstations, signage, and public identities.  The Final Rule will harm the intended beneficiaries of Title X by limiting the number of healthcare providers willing and able to serve them, and preventing them from obtaining accurate information about where they may obtain safe abortion care.

The City of Baltimore is challenging the Final Rule to prevent these harms from impacting its residents.  The Baltimore City Health Department, founded in 1793, is the oldest continuously operating health department in the United States.  It operates a network of health centers that serve over 7,500 Title X clients annually.

On February 14, 2020, the district court issued a permanent injunction blocking the federal government from enforcing the Final Rule in Maryland.  The full court of appeals affirmed that ruling.  As a result, Title X grantees in the State of Maryland, including the Baltimore City Health Department, do not have to comply with the gag rule or separation requirements.

In addition to Baltimore’s case, seven other cases are challenging the Final Rule:

  • American Medical Association v. Azar, D. Or. No. 6:19-cv-00318 / 9th Cir. No. 35386 / Sup. Ct. No. 20-429 
  • California v. Azar, N.D. Cal. No. 3:19-cv-01184 / 9th Cir. No. 19-15974 / Sup. Ct. No. 20-539 
  • Essential Access Health, Inc. v. Azar, 3:19-cv-01195 / 9th Cir. No. 19-15979 / Sup. Ct. No. 20-429  
  • Family Planning Association of Maine v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, D. Me. No. 1:19-cv-00100 / 1st Cir. No. 20-1781 
  • National Family Planning and Reproductive Health Association v. Azar, E.D. Wash. No. 1:19-cv-03045 / 9th Cir. No. 19-35394 / Sup. Ct. No. 20-429 
  • Oregon v. Azar, D. Or. No. 6:19-cv-00317 / 9th Cir. No. 19-35386 / Sup. Ct. No. 20-539  
  • Washington v. Azar, E.D. Wash. No. 1:19-cv-03040 9th Cir. No. 19-35394 

To date, the Baltimore case is the only one to produce an injunction.

On February 22, 2021, the Supreme Court granted HHS’s petition to review the Baltimore case and consolidated it for oral argument with the Ninth Circuit cases listed above.  The Supreme Court has not yet set a date for oral argument.

Plaintiffs:

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore

Defendants:

Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, in his official capacity; United States Department of Health and Human Services; Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Office of Population Affairs, in her official capacity; Office of Population Affairs

Co-counsel:

Baltimore City Law Department; Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP; Yale Law School Reproductive Rights and Justice Project

Timeline and Key Documents:

May 4, 2019

HHS adopts the Final Rule

April 12, 2019

Plaintiff files Complaint

May 30, 2019

District court enters Preliminary Injunction

June 6, 2019

Defendants file Notice of Appeal

June 19, 2019

District court enters Order denying Defendants’ motion to stay the injunction pending appeal

July 2, 2019

Court of appeals enters Order granting Defendants’ motion to stay the injunction pending appeal

September 18, 2019

Court of appeals hears oral argument

February 14, 2020

District court enters Permanent Injunction

February 24, 2020

Defendants file second Notice of Appeal

February 26, 2020

District court enters Order clarifying judgment

March 4, 2020

District court enters Order denying Defendants’ motion to stay the injunction pending appeal

March 30, 2020

En Banc court of appeals enters Order granting Plaintiff’s motion for consolidation and initial hearing en banc

March 31, 2020

En banc court of appeals enters Order denying Defendants’ motion to stay the injunction pending appeal

April 15, 2020

District court enters Order denying Plaintiff’s motion to alter or amend the judgment

May 7, 2020

En banc court of appeals hears oral argument

September 3, 2020

En banc court of appeals issues Opinion affirming the permanent injunction

October 7, 2020

Defendants file a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari with the Supreme Court

December 14, 2020

Plaintiff files a Brief in Opposition with the Supreme Court

December 23, 2020

Defendants file a Reply Brief with the Supreme Court

February 22, 2021

Supreme Court grants certiorari petition and consolidates this case with others from the Ninth Circuit under lead docket number 20-429.

Mayor and City Council of Baltimore v. Azar—FOURTH CIRCUIT BRIEFS