The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued a final rule that makes detrimental revisions to the federal Title X program, which funds free or low-cost reproductive health services for millions of women each year. HHS would impose onerous restrictions that will likely force the shutdown of key health clinics that rely on federal funding. We submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in support of the plaintiff’s motions for preliminary injunction. Plaintiffs argue that the final rule is arbitrary and capricious because HHS failed to accurately assess the rule’s health costs, compliance costs, and alleged benefits. Our brief provides the court with context on the legal and economic standards for regulatory impact analysis to detail how HHS’s assessment of the rule thoroughly flunks those standards.
Courts have made clear that agencies must reasonably consider all important regulatory costs, including any significant direct or indirect health costs. HHS, however, unreasonably concludes that the final rule will impose no costs on public health or patient wellbeing. Similarly, the rule underestimates the direct costs of compliance, contrary to both common sense and evidence indicating that costs will be significantly larger. HHS also fails to provide evidence to support many of its claimed expected benefits of the rule, including a predicted net reduction in unwanted pregnancies and increased compliance with Title X’s prohibition on the use of funds for abortion services. By ignoring best practices and relying on unfounded estimates of costs and benefits, HHS provides a flawed justification of the final rule.
We also filed briefs in Title X cases in the District of Oregon, Eastern District of Washington, and District of Maine. The Eastern District of Washington refers to our brief in the reasoning for its decision to grant an injunction. The Northern District of California’s ruling cites our brief and devotes a lengthy discussion to the arguments we advanced.